* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where we are sticklers for doing whatever the sign in front of us tells us to do. Right now the sign in front of us is telling us to give the floor to our very own Tyler Smith. When you are done perusing his latest signage, you might wander over to our blogroll and scroll down to the link for his book "Whore Stories."

Warning Signs

By:
stoddard.smith@gmail.com

Regardless of the fact that the speed limit in town has always been 20mph, there was a time when, despite the almost quotidian triage situation at 7th and Flagship Ave., people still burned rubber around town like it was Tokyo Drift. However, since the Transportation Department has implemented the use of pixilated skeletons on the city’s crosswalks and posted speed limit signs, things have been different.

Now I’ve always been paralyzed by the notion of “bones,” and so I’m pleased to announce that our streetside skeleton has had the desired effect: abject fear and a near-Wehrmacht conformity to traffic rules and regulations Therefore, on behalf of the Department of Transportation, I’ve been asked to outline just a few of the additional warning signs we’ll be installing in the next few months, “reminders” of just how important safety is and how fleeting this life can be.

YIELD

People often treat the yield sign as if it were a mere suggestion of deference to faster traffic. Perhaps they won’t be so cavalier about flitting into traffic when, instead of the old equilateral, motorists encounter our new sign featuring an image of Dracula and his bloodstained fangs! That’s right, if you’re thinking about just blazing into a lane that’s been spoken for, maybe you’ll think first about the physical (painful bites) and ontological (an eternity dressed in a cape) terror of this roadside abomination and yield the right-of-way like a responsible human being, not some undead clod.

DON’T BLOCK THE BOX

This sign is not advertising a porno movie, nor is it the name of that new emo band from Brooklyn. No, “Don’t Block the Box” is a simple admonition to stay out of the intersection if there isn’t room for you on the other side. How hard can it be to obey this municipal mandate? Extraordinarily hard, according to DPS numbers. That’s why, in lieu of the old black and white square signage, we’ve placed The Invisible Man. Look how sad the Invisible Man gets when you edge out there like a dick. You can’t see him, but I assure you he’s devastated. Also, it’s better to give up wondering if the Invisible Man is nude or if he has invented invisible clothes. Just watch the road! You could run him over and then who’s in trouble? If you must know, we’re not sure if the Invisible Man is nude or not. In fact, we may have lost track of him. Indeed, if you “see” the Invisible Man, please do not approach him. Call the local police, any dogcatchers you know and/or other relevant civil brigades.

STOP

These unremarkable red octagons peppered throughout the city will remain the same, with one alteration — from now on, stop signs will be propped up by cursed Egyptian mummies. “Hey, no sweat!” you may say, “I can drive faster than a stupid mummy.” Fair enough, but they’re sure to find you eventually: these mummies have walkie-talkies and never, ever give up — even though the world has given up on them.

ONE WAY

What’s that terrifying din coming out of those loudspeakers on the corners? That is the Bride of Frankenstein. No, not the one with the electrodes, but Judith, a far more terrifying crone and wife of Hyman Frankenstein (proprietor of Frankenstein’s Deli on Main St.), a soulless woman with arms like legs, legs like cabers and a bad strain of pancake hands. And what you’re hearing is Ms. Frankenstein’s hideous meat rattle as she forces down an overambitious bite of kishke, reminding us to use caution and consider the choices we make in our lives. Think about that the next time you consider making a hard left onto 3rd Ave. coming from the east, hauling ass away from Egyptian mummies wielding stop signs.

DEAD END

While steering your vehicle into a dead end is pathetic, it’s not as potentially harmful as, say, a head-on-collision. But it is a kind of soul-death, isn’t it? That’s why, instead of the forbidding, bright orange diamond that seems to — counterintuitively — send drivers barreling into historic brownstones, we’ve come up with a far more effective deterrent: two skeletons. Not only do these fiends serve as poignant icons of how little time we have on Earth, they remind us that the only thing worse than dying alone is dying with someone you never really loved — and may just get traffic moving again. There is always, of course, the bus.

A brief postscript on the bus: please remember to stay clear of the automatic doors and watch your back…If the warnings don’t stop you, the werewolves will.

 

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, home of the mindless primitive, otherwise known as the modern male. Our own Associate Editor Tyler Smith knows more about this subject than he ought to.

The Caveman Diaries

By:

“[There is]…a small New York subculture whose members seek good health through a selective return to the habits of their Paleolithic ancestors.”
— NY Times

1/1/2010
Aooooooogggghhhaaa! That’s my primal scream, yo. It’s New Year’s Day today and last night, after hunting wild game near by the New School, I partied my supraorbital torus off at a sweet club over in the meatpacking district. The bouncer gave me attitude for smelling like rotten hamburgers and being prehistoric and nude, but he saw me for the tribal leader I am, and he knew not to step to me. I make it a point to put out an uber-masculine Cro-Magnon vibe, and anyone can see that I could outrun a mastodon if I could find one, so ditching this bouncer would have been a cinch, and he knew it. Ran into a few problems finding a woman, though. I take my obligation to keep the species afloat seriously, but how am I supposed to tell who’s ovulating and who’s just hopelessly irascible? Ended the night alone, regarding the wonder of fire in a dumpster off of Bleecker. Tomorrow I hunt and/or gather.

1/2/2010
I’m exhausted. Up all night watching Jersey Shore on DVR (Cro-Magnon man must have splurged occasionally). Is it wrong to feel attracted to “The Situation?” In Paleolithic times there was probably more dude on dude anyway, because where the hell is everybody, right?

1/10/2010
Could a date go any worse? I do realize it’s important to be considerate of other people’s diets, even though I, personally, am a ferocious caveman. Sally from 9B came up for dinner and a movie. Sally looked bored until I brought out the first course — four pints of blood. She went completely berserk. In an effort to make amends, I grabbed her ponytail and ushered her into the living room and onto a love seat fashioned out of a hollow log. With a nice bowl of twigs and berries to munch on, we were preparing to watch Caveman with Ringo Starr and Barbara Bach (and a young Dennis Quaid!), when she escaped out the door, no doubt into the arms of Federico next door in 7C. Federico is a weak-willed herbivore primed for extinction, yet he exhibits an unerring sense about when a woman is ovulating as Sally’s orgasmic screams wafting through the thin walls of my apartment so aptly attest. I may be one of Rousseau’s “noble savages,” but if I see Sally struggling at the door with a bunch of groceries again, she’s on her own. Would sleep in the Sheep’s Meadow tonight, outdoors as is my nature, but the Geek Squad is coming early tomorrow to fix my hard drive.

1/30/2010
Went to my first New York Cavemen Society meeting. Some trader from Goldman got in my face saying I was a wanna-be. Fortunately, my boy Oog, the host of the meeting and an excellent Evolutionary Fitness trainer, set his pug “Phantom Killah,” on this guy’s gonads, and we all got a sense of just how brutal life could be 200,000 years ago. Moreover, they had no margarita machine, because ice is a luxury in which a troglodyte could not indulge. I made a joke about hoping for another “Ice Age,” but the room got really quiet and I had to apologize. The winter here has been tough enough, and I regretted it right as I said it. I felt like jumping in a tar pit, but I just went to the bathroom and did a crossword puzzle with my own feces in an effort to get back to a good, prehistoric place. I missed out on the smorgasbord of assorted raw meats, and I heard later that somebody (probably the Goldman douche) got drunk and claimed to have invented the wheel. Right, like, what are those four things on your Aston Martin, you F’ing phony!?

2/15/2010
You know what? It occurred to me that cavemen probably didn’t know how to read (except for that precocious chick that wrote The Clan of the Cave Bear). So, I’m doing my best to unlearn this futuristic conceit. The VP doesn’t buy it. I tried to tell him I’d unlearned reading, but he tricked me by writing “You’re Fired” on a piece of paper, so I clubbed him with my Mets pennant. I think he knew that I knew what the paper said. Was going to try to woo a cave wife with some Alpha behavior, you know, feats of strength, but when Sally was struggling at her door and I brusquely snatched her bag of groceries grunting primally, “Go ahead, I’ve got these,” she shoved me and I bumped into that vegan Brontosaurus Federico who shanked me in the gut with an organic carrot and told me to “grow up.” Grow up?

As if evolution was something so simple.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where Cesar Millan is a household word...assuming your household is full of weird people who whisper to their dogs. This week our own Tyler Smith shows what can happen when a normal American family applies the Millan method not only to their pets but to their offspring.

The Child Whisperers

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“…some parents, and even a few child therapists, have found themselves taking mental notes from a television personality known for inspiring discipline, order and devotion: Cesar Millan, otherwise known as the ‘Dog Whisperer.'” — The New York Times

Let’s face it. Child rearing is tough. My wife Tina and I know this from personal experience. For the first three years of his life, our son Blackie was a real terror — the kind of kid you wouldn’t mind letting fall off a cliff, like Macaulay Culkin in The Good Son (or Home Alone 2). We knew things were bad when we took him home from the hospital a few days after he was born and the first thing he does when he gets in the house is defecate all over my Devo record collection. Then he starts suckling on my wife’s breast! Dr. Spock doesn’t tell you how to deal with this sort of behavior, at least not on the dust jacket. These antics continued for three years. The crying, the poop, keeping us up all night howling because we forgot to let him back in the house. Our dog John Robert Eldridge III is perfectly happy to sleep outside. In fact, he likes it. What gives? Tina and I repeatedly asked ourselves.

Then one night, while Tina and I were watching The Dog Whisperer and congratulating ourselves on how well Cesar Millan’s techniques had worked on John Robert Eldridge III, we looked over and there’s Blackie, all apoplectic because Tina was sitting on the remote that controlled his shock collar. Tina and I thought, “Hey, maybe we’re going about this all the wrong way,” although neither of us had the courage to say it until a month or so later.

“You know, there’s something we could learn from Cesar,” said my wife.

“What it feels like to be Mexican?” I asked.

“No, well, yes, but that’s not what I’m talking about. What I’m saying is that I bet if we use Cesar’s dog-training techniques on Blackie, we could make more headway than we have in the past.” And from that moment on, our lives, and more importantly Blackie’s life, became far more manageable.

As Cesar instructed us to do with J.R. III, the first step was to identify where our creature fit into the hierarchy of his species. For example, we recognized that Blackie was:

1. A child with childish needs as opposed to grown-up needs.

2. Too much of a damned diva to drink out of the toilet like a normal person.

3. Not going anywhere soon.

Then we began implementing Cesar’s cardinal rules: Exercise, Discipline and Affection (Initially, Tina thought it was “Affectation” and had J.R. III and Blackie smoking Gauloises and toting first editions of À la Recherche du Temps Perdu. Oops.). First, we made sure Blackie got plenty of exercise. By stapling a filet to his diaper, we ensured that both J.R. III and Blackie could get in a good workout. J.R. III chased Blackie around for what seemed like hours! Of course, Blackie, still resistant to “order,” would typically collapse in a heap and play dead (the first “trick” he learned) in protest, his attempt to assert himself as what Cesar might call “The Alpha Child.” But do Alpha Children run around crying when a snarling Rottweiler comes charging toward their little tushies? No, they don’t. “Nature, red in tooth and claw,” we’d remind Blackie, but he’d just squall incessantly until we shelved the Tennyson and ushered J.R. III off to his Shiatsu-do massage appointment. Blackie was often hostile, but that’s where discipline comes in.

We learned from Cesar that Blackie’s shock collar was unnecessary, and in retrospect, maybe a little cruel (Child Protective Services echoed this sentiment in a caustic little epistle). Now, there’s nothing wrong with tough love, but we found that a leash pop from a simple choke chain was all we really needed to coax Blackie into heeling. Remember, mom and dad — YOU’RE THE ALPHAS. Dogs and children are pack animals, and it’s up to YOU to establish discipline so your child doesn’t wander off to Burning Man to do magical mushrooms and get in touch with his inner nude. That’s why, following Cesar’s advice, whenever Blackie would get out of line, we’d establish dominance by grasping the scruff of his neck and going, “Tsch!” Then, when Blackie could finally talk, we changed that to “Tsst!” Finally, in high school it was “I’m going to shake you until your fricking teeth rattle…Tchst.”

But, let’s not forget affection. Affection is crucial in making sure that your child doesn’t grow up to be like one of those Menendez brothers. Be sure to praise and reward your child for good behavior (they like candy, and later in life they will appreciate cash) and encourage nuzzling and licking between your child and your dog and even other children. If you feel like they still aren’t getting enough affection, you can pay for six years of college at Chico State while they loaf around studying “Modes of Being” or glassblowing or some other dopey thing.

If, after carefully implementing Cesar’s training tactics, your child is still rambunctious, ungrateful and disobedient, I’m not sure what to tell you. We’ve tried to contact Cesar to see if Blackie (or, “Timothy,” as he now insists on being called) would be welcome at his Dog Psychology Center in South Central L.A. but we have yet to hear back. In the meantime, Blackie responded to our well-intentioned inquiry in his usual belligerent fashion, biting me on the nose, urinating on his mother and kidnapping John Robert Eldrige IV, announcing that he was going to Burning Man to do magical mushrooms and get in touch with his inner nude.

Now, Cesar’s techniques may not work for all children. But they’re certainly worth a try. After all, you only get one shot at child rearing, sometimes more if you like sex. And there is at least one lesson taught by Señor Millan that every parent needs to know: No matter how much your child bitches and moans about it, Alpo Prime Cuts in Gravy with Liver may not be “cool” to serve at their 10th birthday party, but they’ll thank you later for the protein.

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* Welcome to The Big Jewel, where old memories go to be laughed to death. This week one of our own associate editors, Tyler Smith, does his best Marcel Proust impersonation.

À la Recherche du Texas Temps Perdu

By:

Austin, Lauren’s driveway, 2009: “I’m wildly attracted to you,” I say, moving closer. “You smell like prime rib plus Jolly Ranchers,” she says. I lose heart. There will be no kiss. They don’t kiss at Exposé Gentleman’s Club. But those kittens play close. And do not judge.

Laredo, 1983: A man wrestles on a street corner with a giant squid. On closer inspection, it’s not a squid, it’s a hemorrhoid.

Marfa, 4:00 a.m., 2007: I pass a nude man carrying a box of donuts. He gives me a thumbs-up. I wonder why. Turns out, I’m nude, too, but I have no donuts. The next day I will go to AA.

Galveston, 2000: There’s something on my line! I reel it in. It’s a decaying corpse. I never catch anything good. The next day, I catch crabs from a toilet in Surfside.

Nuevo Laredo, 1999: I am an expatriate! I’ve done it — made the move. I read Les Miserables in one sitting. I drink wine out of a box, internationally. My friends argue that even though I’m an American, there’s no excuse for emptying my bowels into a box of wine. Also, it seems we haven’t yet crossed the border.

Houston, Buffalo Bayou, 1985: “Pick it up, Adam — let’s make it our friend or our mascot or something!” Later, at Ben Taub hospital, “He’s lucky he’s not dead.” A water moccasin should have a different name. They don’t work like shoes do. And a moccasin is a stupid kind of shoe.

San Antonio, The Alamo, 2001: I bribe the guard with pesetas, then pounds, then Euros. “Where can we find Pancho Villa’s bunker,” I ask. “Huh,” he says. Alas, the Starbucks is closed. Where can I find a latte? Drugs and Texas history do not mix.

Archer City, 2004: The Lonesome Dove Inn is teeming with culture. I espy Gabriel García Márquez, a little tipsy, asking passers-by for money. “Maestro!” I shout. “Mange d’la marde!” he replies, then punches me in the nose. Larry McMurtry is a douche bag. So is the hobo that punched me.

Houston, TX, 1986: The Challenger has exploded. Channel 11 News has come to our school to interview students — gauge our reactions. “What does this mean to you?” asks the comely reporter. “No school tomorrow?” I reply, hopefully. They edit out my spot and that uppity 4th grade bitch, Laurie, makes the news.

Amarillo, 1984: The Civic Center is going wild. “Ama-effin-rillo!!” shouts Dee Snider of Twisted Sister. Then cops, then show’s over, with nary a chord struck. Then my brother and his roommate in the parking lot eating whipped cream. They loved whipped cream. Now they’re acting funny and I feel like maybe I’m in control.

Dallas, 1982: “Hey kid, you want a cigarette?” asks the man at the hotel bar. “Yes!” I exclaim. “Hey, don’t you dare do that” barks my father. A right cross, then a thud. I wish my Dad were a better fighter.

Nuevo Laredo, 1999: They say there are two kinds of herpes, but only one kind makes your girlfriend break up with you. Again, it appears we have yet to cross the border. I’m getting fed up with Laredo.

Austin, 2009: I have gazed at the art of grief. The margarita machine is broken. I won’t laugh again until I smell like Jolly Ranchers and prime rib.

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Anticipated Reviews Of My Unfinished Novels, Had I Completed Them

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Patchouli Morning

The metaphysical impishness, erudition and breadth of vision in this sexually charged roman à clef is Smith at his most vulnerable. We recoil in horror as he recounts a series of heartbreaking trysts that recall — then exceed — Flaubert in both emotional power and literary merit. Curiously, the novel stagnates for the first twenty pages with inane references to pedestrian, adolescent love themes directed toward a sophomore called only “Emily,” but it then soars for the remaining 344 pages with a narrative and vision as taut and authentic as anything in the Western canon since forever. And while the inclusion of the lyrics to Metallica’s “Fade to Black” in the prologue offers little in the way of relevance, one is reminded that — like black holes — not everything should be easily understood.

Lachrymose in Transylvania

Intoxicating, tantalizing, always potentially violent, this captivating tome helps define not just the current state of Inuit America, but the world at large. It is a book so erudite and well wrought that its aura somehow illuminates the rest of Smith’s oeuvre, sustaining his post-apocalyptic vision. And although Smith asks a lot of his readers (would Dracula really show up for the soap-box derby, uninvited?), we are rewarded for our efforts later in this tour de force when it becomes clear everything has been a dream — but not in that hokey, St. Elsewhere way — in that way that only Smith, at the height of his creative powers, can manufacture so convincingly.

Da Nang Disco

Can anyone write about the horrors of the Vietnam War like Smith? Maybe Tim O’Brien, but does O’Brien dare to set his narrative against the backdrop of a colonial discotheque struggling to keep the party going during the Tet Offensive? No. Smith weaves his flawless prose seamlessly through the trenches and pop hits of 1968 Vietnam while exposing the artifice and shady underbelly that was the 2001 Little League World Series. The daring cadenza that begins the novel is, as often seems to be the case with Smith’s first chapters, categorically unreadable — but not in the sense that they are ill-conceived or poorly written — they are simply too much to bear, like much of Joyce. The Emily character makes a dramatic entrance, screams, then leaves the novel for good. Again. It’s so haunting! Maybe I should just come clean here and admit that I am not smart enough to comprehend what Smith is getting at, usually.

Toggle & Yaw

Just when you get the feeling that Smith may nave reached the limits of his vast fecundity, he treats us to a space novel like no other. To call Toggle & Yaw a “space novel,” though, is tantamount to calling The Bible a “sand novel.” The book begins quite predictably with a string of complaints (as is becoming Smith’s modus operandi) related to a character named “Emily,” who appears quite substantially in earlier chapters then disappears without a whimper. What are we to think of this “Emily?” Who really cares, when, later in the novel, Toggle (a Type A cosmonaut from the future) explains to Yaw (a robot/fire hydrant with a history of drug abuse), “Thy sample science programs, like deep surveys and slitless grism spectroscopy of exo-planet transit, will compromise ye olde mission’s capabilities in near-infrared, m’lady. Anon.” Can you think of another writer who can meld flawless Victorian patois with deep-space discourse like Smith? This reviewer cannot.

The Rending

If it can be said of any writer living today that he/she has fused lyric virtuosity with a kind childlike aplomb, that writer must be Mr. Smith. The Rending begins with the tale of a particularly devastating train accident, I think. Of course, Smith knows that, in fiction, it’s often what’s “not there” that lends to the visceral beauty inherent in certain exchanges and turns of phrase. Indeed, The Rending, Smith’s fifth and finest book thus far, is an artistic blitzkrieg on literary expectation and norms, as the novel, coming in at just under 600 pages, features not a single word. If Kafka, Proust, McCullers and Nabokov pooled their best work and created a kind of “Dream Team” book, one wonders whether the ensuing scribbles could even be put up for consideration next to Smith’s magnum opus. The culminate car-chase through the byzantine streets of Caligula’s Rome recalls I, Claudius, with lasers. Not-to-be-perused.

Emily

On first read, one wonders whether Mr. Smith actually typed the word “Emily” 2,011,740 times, or if he in fact used the “cut-and-paste” option on his PC. Either way, this paean to lost love compels the reader to ask: “Is this The Great American Novel?” or perhaps, “What’s your return policy?”

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You’re A Coyote!

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All right, kids — it gives me great pleasure as your head coach to welcome you to what I feel will be the best team in all of West Union Little League…The Coyotes!

First off, don’t give me any grief, Coyotes. I’m doing a service to the community — “community service” as some would have me call it — and though I wasn’t anticipating having to put in 15 hours a week coaching this squad, I also didn’t anticipate that my little card game in the garage would get me indicted for “keeping a gambling place.” Again.

Now, as someone who has played a little ball (Go Panthers ’85!) I’m a little more qualified than you all to make the kind of cutthroat managerial decisions necessary to keep the Coyotes at the top of the standings. But, if you’re unhappy with your position, please let me or my extremely violent third base coach and garage bartender, “Bloodstain,” know and we’ll consider all requests. That said, here’s our lineup, by position:

First Base — Hugh Green

You know it. I know it. Everybody knows it: you’re the fat kid. And that’s okay! That’s why we’ve got first base. You’re a commanding presence both at the plate and on the diamond and if you play your cards right, someday you might come in handy as “muscle” in my garage, as you’ve demonstrated time and time again that uncanny fat-kid temper that usually translates into ultra-violence. And no, you can’t play pitcher. Oh, jeez — I can feel you getting all huffy and red. Play it cool, cheeseburger — we can’t always get what we want.

Second Base — Chris O’Hollarhan

You know, during infield drills during tryouts, I took Bloodstain aside and told him, “This kid Chris throws like a chick.” Are you angry now? Do you want to channel that anger against our insensitive opponents? Wait. I must have missed something. You are a chick. Welcome to the Coyotes then, sweetie. Let me ask you something: Can you feel gayness at this age? These kinds of things fascinate me, the whole nature/nurture discussion. Also, if you think you’re going to pitch, you’ve got another think coming.

Shortstop — Blake Kyser

Blake, I’m taking a risk here. You have absolutely no athletic ability and I’m convinced that you’re at least mildly retarded. But work with me. Are you familiar with the term “sword of Damocles?” Anyway, your old man just happens to be the league president as well as my parole officer. So needless to say, I’m in a tight spot. Shortstop is an absolutely crucial position and I have faith that through your practiced regimen of drooling and biting, you’ll be of absolutely no use to the Coyotes. So, let’s call this a fragile armistice. Oh, and if you thought I’d let you go anywhere near the pitcher’s mound, you’re out of your diseased mind.

Third Base — Joey LaRocca

Joey, you have a face like a train wreck but an undeniably smokin’ Mom. What gives? Is Dad out of the picture? You seem like the kind of menace who’ll probably snap and shoot up an Applebee’s later in life — and I like that kind of intensity — just try to keep your sociopathologies under wraps for now. But I have to ask — how are you with a knife? We get some shady characters in my garage and Bloodstain can’t take ’em all. Anyway, what’s your Mom’s name again…Sheena? And no, you can’t pitch. Please don’t kill me later in life when you crack up.

Outfield — Kevin Cummings, Hunter Rushing, Lonny von Winkle

If your parents weren’t making you do this, you’d be up to your butt in Magic the Gathering or whatever losers like you three are into. Just arrange yourselves out there so you don’t look like dicks and maybe bring a book. And no pitching.

Catcher — Owen Wiener

Owen, I know people and I can tell that you can take a fair amount of abuse. This may have something to do with the fact that you are covered in oozing carbuncles and sundry other bruises, carbuncles and scabs. What’s that thing where you can’t feel pain? Congenital analgia! (I just Googled.) Tell me you have that, kid. If not, you’re in for some hard times behind the plate. So be prepared. And don’t touch anything — you’re like a walking goiter. Pitch? Bitch, please.

Pitcher — Enrique

Bienvenidos a América! Please see Bloodstain for appropriate residency and other official documents. We’re all really excited to have you as our Coyote ace! A few quick things: I should have clarified that when I asked you to shave, I meant the moustache, too. Sorry — rules are rules. Also, try to avoid pulling up to the Little League field in the Trans Am Bloodstain “found” for you — this tends to raise eyebrows and we’re trying to keep what’s known here as a “low profile.” Finally, and this goes to the core of what it means to be a Coyote — hit the first batter in the face. This establishes you as “owning the plate” while letting my guys in Vegas know that the fix is in.

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Brahms’ Other Lullabies

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Lullaby in D-flat major

Begun in the dulcet triple meter of his most renowned berceuse (the Wiegenlied, opus 94, #4), this misbegotten piece by Brahms veers astray when he eschews the conservative chromaticism of the traditional lullaby and opts for a more aggressive atonal approach. Eighth notes cluster in the upper registers, dissonantly burping out in random ostinato sprays, as Brahms, at wit’s end, tries to soothe “Big” Bertha Faber’s illegitimate infant while she goes out to settle a score with her pimp. When Bertha returns smelling of back-alley liaisons, Brahms crashes a dominant triad and ponders whether Chopin had to put up with this kind of crap — women stopping by and demanding he “come up with something to put the little guy out for a spell.” Brahms, exhausted, resolves to locate an alternative dating service and attempt some isometric muscle exercises.

Lullaby in C minor

This melancholy waltz composed at the home of Brahms’ beloved mentor, Robert Schumann, and his wife Clara (with whom, after the death of his mentor, Brahms had a torrid, yet fully clothed, love affair) soon dissolves into a pizzicato cacophony of tritones and grunts as Brahms contemplates a detour to the wine cellar to feed the cantankerous Schumann babe a spot of brandy. When Clara Schumann comes home early and finds Brahms giving her little angel thimble-shooters of Rémy Martin, the lullaby devolves into an all-out symphonic riot — complete with a sudden scherzo of crashing spoons and an odd chaconne-like war-dance around the piano. Clara, Brahms and the family dog collapse into a peculiar ménage on the floor, during which Brahms suffers multiple lacerations and a mild case of rabies. The piece closes with Brahms foaming at the mouth and urinating on his sheet music, the faint echo of middle C resonating throughout the boudoir. Bavarian parents begin to mutter that maybe Wagner would have been a better bet to tackle the lullaby contract.

Lullaby in B flat major

With a promising sonata-allegro introduction and enticing exposition, one wonders whether the transitional bridge immediately preceding the codetta was actually intended to sound like a feral hog falling down a flight of stairs — a musical conceit some attribute to Brahms’ struggles with the colic-ridden, three-toed orphan toddler lent to him by the Ministry of Child Welfare on which to practice. “She’s an outright monster,” Brahms complains. “I’m really at the end of my damned rope here.” What follows is arguably a manifestation of Brahms going a little nuts, as the composer rips apart the musical gestalt by slamming a nearby viola against the piano legs, creating a one-of-a-kind dynamic dissonance. Shortly after, the infant succumbs to a fit of the barking cough, consumed by croup. Brahms sets to work on a new codetta, this time practicing with another orphan, who, after the composer’s leitmotifs prove too much to bear, receives his reward after a particularly virulent attack of armpit thrush. The Ministry of Child Welfare ceases its orphans-on-loan initiative. There are murmurs of an investigation.

Lullaby in C sharp minor (disputed)

Brahms is in abject misery. He collapses on the couch in exhaustion and blows a languid stack of minor thirds on the flute he made by carving diatonic hole spacings in Schumann’s chamber pot. “You know, Clara, if more women would breast-feed, I wouldn’t have to come up with this heinous little jingle,” groans Brahms, between dangerous injections of morphine. “The pressure from you and the suits over in Berlin is crushing me. And the wretched angst of knowing that your heart is still with Robert!” “Robert wouldn’t give up like this,” says Clara, throwing Brahms into a psychotic episode that lasts until Clara brings a frying pan down on Brahms’ kneecaps. For the real enthusiast, the subsequent “clang” (augmented major seventh), while not in the sheet music, nevertheless offers a seductive moment of reflection as, during the rallentando, we imagine Brahms shuffling off to an orthopedist.

Lullaby in E major

The piece begins as an adagio, almost like a hymn. “Big” Bertha’s infinitely more attractive but slatternly sister Inga watches adoringly as her son Uder eases into sleep. The graceful introduction transitions into a quiet melody that halts dramatically as the child awakes with a start. “Oh, Inga,” says Brahms, “I’m just so tired. What is to be done!” “You know what, Johannes,” she hisses, “why don’t you take your worthless little ditties and go back to Vienna. I’ll just get Debussy over here. He knows how to treat a woman.” The consequent silence recalls a primal epoch, where silent amoebae sit contemplating their next move. Then, in 6/8 time, Brahms begins with a whisper, “Guten Abend, gut Nacht, mit Rosen bedacht.” The child sinks into a somnolent repose, then, in one final burst, roars with banshee enthusiasm, hurling a ball of sputum into Brahms’ eye and expiring without a whimper. Brahms, despondent, considers turning the lullaby project over to Wagner while going back to cranking out the formulaic, albeit decidedly less lethal, Hungarian dance tunes the lubberly public clamors so desperately for.

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Shakira, Your Hips Are Full Of Crap

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Dear Shakira,

I hate to be the one to tell you this, but it’s true. I’ll admit, I was skeptical from the start when you claimed that your hips “don’t lie.” But, I gave you the benefit of the doubt, because I didn’t think you were like all the rest of those stuck-up American starlets with their uppity bodyguards and pepper spray. However, that was before today, when I received this letter talking about “equitable remedy” and “ex parte,” which, from what I understand, means I have to stop sending you those scrumptious oatmeal raisin cookies along with the vials of my valuable bone marrow your hips were so intent on having. Well, let me just tell you that I feel like a real ass right now, as I’m sure that your hips have been telling me outright lies for weeks, maybe even months.

“Come up on stage,” wiggled your dissembling hips, rotating, “You’ll love it up here.” Do you remember that? It was I guess around April. Well, when I sauntered up to the stage, accidentally rhino-charging those two security guards, I felt that we, or at least your hips and I, had made a real connection. But the second I managed to crawl up there, you and your hips run away and jump into a van, leaving me at the mercy of those security guard troglodytes who took great relish in pushing my nose through the back of my face. What am I supposed to believe, Shakira? Either get those hips to start speaking your language (Spanglish, am I correcto?), or stop deluding yourself into thinking they are the upstanding hips that they’re not. I’ll be honest, I’m more than a little inclined to sue the pants off your hips for leading me up there on stage that night. You know, even without a trial, these misunderstandings cost money.

“I’m not sure exactly where Shakira and I live, but I’m pretty certain we’re from Bogotá,” gyrated your ilia (the largest section of the hip bone, the ilium offers a support nexus for muscles and internal organs, and is, in your case, a remorseless agent of deception and skullduggery) after I asked where I might find you two. Remember? That’s right — while you and your hips were nice and warm inside on TRL with Carson Daly, I was freezing my gonads off downtown in front of a Radio Shack, screaming. You may not have heard me, but your hips were certainly quick to chime in. Well, naturally, I boarded a flight the next week to your fair capital in an effort to cultivate our relationship. Snake eyes, Shakira! No thanks to your full-of-crap hips, I found out that you’re not from Bogotá–as your hips would claim–you’re from Barranquilla, and even more disturbing, you live in the Bahamas! You know who told me that? It wasn’t your hips, that’s for sure. No, it was a bunch of FARC guerrillas who took me in, fed me, then shaved my testicles after I made a guerrilla/gorilla joke to break the ice.

Does this shameless deception bother you at all? (Shakira, I urge you not to show this epistle to your hips, as I’m certain they will just wiggle and bounce around in a fit of mendacity, for which I will no doubt fall — hook, line and pelvis). You know, I hope you don’t pay mind to your hips too often; whatever they’re telling you, it’s probably all lies. Did they tell you that was my kidney you got in the mail? Absolutely false (unless you need it some day due to renal failure — then maybe it was mine). I imagine your hips have been deceiving you for ages, and it makes me angry to think they might go around spreading lies about me. But they do mention me, don’t they?

Look, Shakira. Perhaps this is all one big misunderstanding. It may be the case that your hips are just jealous because they fear I’m becoming attracted to you, and you to me. Maybe it’s true. People (and often their component parts) will do the most sinister things to keep true romance at bay. It is my sincere hope that your hips will stop these childish antics and let us get to know one another as more than partial beings, but as complete, drunk and eventually nude individuals who share a great love of each other. Of course, I’ve been burned before by those hips, so before I commit to anything, you’ve got to “let me in,” okay?

And that means letting me in your heart and your security gate this time.

Cautiously,

Tyler Smith

P.S. How reliable are your elbows? I’m getting some pretty good vibes from them, but if they’re anything like your hips, then just forget it.

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John the Apostle Has Some Explaining to Do

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Alright everybody, settle down now. What you’ve just witnessed here is a miracle. I need everybody to take a few steps back and give me some air so I can explain. Divine intervention has manifested itself in our affairs right here in Cana, as you’ll notice that the water you’ve been sipping for the past hour has now been turned to wine. With this miracle, I, for one, am prepared to put my faith in this man. What’s that, Fred? No, not that dwarf over by the salad bar; I’m talking about Jesus, the guy I brought from Nazareth. The Lamb of God, for crying out loud. Well, my date cancelled. Of course you can’t eat Him — it’s a metaphor. Fred, I think you’ve been drinking a little too much of that wine. Jesus is not taking “drink orders,” per se. If He wants to turn the wine into dry martinis, I imagine He’ll do that, don’t you? Look, I’m sorry the dwarf is freaking you out, but I’m not about to ask Jesus to turn him into lemon sorbet — be realistic, Fred. Well she’s allowed to tell him his business — that’s his mother. I know it’s dorky, she’s just a little protective. Please don’t make a big deal about his mom coming, okay? Because it’s embarrasing, Fred! No, Fred. She doesn’t have a boyfriend. She has a husband — a devoted husband called Joseph. Kick his ass? You go right ahead with that, Fred. You go right ahead and see what happens when that happens, hoss.

His glory revealed, I suggest we all give Jesus a little room and thank Him for providing us with this wine, as you sots drank the last of it before the ink on the ketubah dried. As foretold by Isaiah 62:4-5, we have borne witness to this grand….My name? It’s John. The bride and I were mixed doubles partners on the high school tennis team. I’m sorry, you are who? Wendell? Ah, the best man. Well, this must be quite a day for you, sir. Oh, I assure you, neither Jesus nor I is trying to “steal anybody’s thunder,” but you must admit that this miracle, this luminous mystery has come to us as an indication that…How am I being an insensitive jackass? If I wanted to, I could tell everybody about how I’ve noticed you’ve been eyeing the flower girls since we got here. Well, I’m sure they do things differently in Jezreel, but here in Cana, we don’t tolerate that kind of thing. We’re talking about the Anointed here, who has come to us to redeem all humanity. This man is the word become flesh and I aim to have you recognize that…Oh, don’t be childish; I’m not going to “meet you by the chuppah in twenty minutes.” This is a sacred occasion on so many levels, Wendell. Why are you intent on making such a donkey of yourself?

Okay, come here, Jesus. Enable us as your disciples to follow you in all the glory of your divine splendor…Oh, I know they’re a little rowdy — they’re just half-crocked on that delicious wine. But they won’t bite, I promise. Come up here on the stage with me. Whoa! Okay, that dwarf definitely bites. I didn’t see that coming. How is your ankle? Jesus, I’m sorry about that. I think they’re just a little overwhelmed. I have to admit, I am too. No, wait. Where are you going? See what you’ve done, you maniacs? Now he’s upset and you’re all drunk and acting like a bunch of jerks. That means you, Fred. I’ll tell you what. To be honest, I’m struggling to see how you make the connection between Jesus doing His best to make this wedding a real one-of-a-kind bash by turning water into wine and you having “the power” to turn your lamb chops into “poop.” Well, one is an act of the gastro-intestinal tract and the other is an act of God. Yes, Fred, I’m sure He could, but you’re plumb crazy if you think I’m going to ask Jesus to turn the crudité spread into shekel-bags of weed.

Now, if you would, rejoice with me all of you in praising Jesus for this miracle we have seen today. Uh, girls. Girls! That’s not praising. That’s more like “asking for things.” Get up off of Jesus’s lap. No, girls. That’s incorrect. Why would He want to come down your chimney? Milk and cookies? What’s gotten into you people? But since we’re on chimneys, I urge you all to abandon your false hearths! There is a brighter light that shines before your very eyes. Praise be to Jesus, for He has…What’s that, Emily? No, He doesn’t do pregnancy tests. You all think this is some kind of parlor trick, don’t you? I don’t think the awesome power or significance of what has happened here today is really sinking in. This is unbelievable. Oh, forgive them, Jesus. Well no, not the little fellow who bit you, that was totally uncalled for. They hauled him off along with that groomsman who was trying to fondle the ice sculpture, so you won’t have to worry about them any more…Hmm, that’s a good question. Where is everybody going? Good people of Galilee, what is that commotion? Hold on one second, Jesus. Maybe the band is setting up; let me go take a look.

Can this be so? Jesus, come quickly! It is another miracle, like the one described on Mount Horeb. Perhaps as God informed Moses of his divine calling after the flight out of Egypt, He now appears as if to speak from a burning bush! Oh, wait. No. Jesus, you probably don’t even want to see this. It’s Fred. He’s done something called a “brush fire.” I’m embarrassed to even tell you what it is. Well, you blow out all the candles in a room and then you, uh, while everybody’s wondering what’s up, you, uh, hmm, how do I put this lightly, uh, you sort of light your pubes on fire and run around the room. Yeah, and I guess it sort of looks like a brush fire.

It’s always the lowest common denominator at these things, Jesus. Man, I could really use a dry martini right now.

Well, I was just asking.

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My Name Is Jabba And I’m An Alcoholic

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This is my first time at an AA meeting. I’ve been sober for one day. First, I’d just like to say how moved I am that you all have agreed to hold this meeting in the gymnasium. I think we all know it would have been a little cramped in the Sunday school room. Oh, dang it, that’s embarrassing. I’ll pay for the chair. No, I’ll just lie here on the floor. Okay, well, I’ve been an alcoholic for, oh, I guess about six-hundred years, give or take a decade or so. I started drinking in high school with my friends on Tatooine. I’m sorry? No, it’s not outside of Sacramento. Anyway, I didn’t always look this bad. As a teen I actually did a runway show in Mos Eisley. But then, a few drinks with my pals became nights alone with a bottle of something blue, just listening to old Genesis records. What? No, before Phil Collins. Well, Peter Gabriel, of course. He absolutely was. No, I’m afraid there were a number of albums before Invisible Touch.

Look, I’m trying to heal here. No, you brought it up. So, after a while I fall in with some really bad folks. I mean, you find that denial likes company. If you surround yourself with people who all have a problem, you perceive there is no problem. So the next thing I know, I’m pushing about three-thousand pounds, drinking like a maniac every chance I get, roistering, sleeping around and eventually I’m head of this enormous crime syndicate. My wife left me about a hundred years ago. Excuse me? No, not three-hundred, three-thousand pounds.

Well, I appreciate that. I look thinner in beige. I did have a trainer for a while, but it didn’t work out. No, I ate him. I don’t blame you all for looking at me like that. I was so drunk, I’m ashamed of myself. I’m so ashamed. But that’s what it’s like, you know. Hell, a few years back I had this guy who owed me money frozen in carbonite. It’s like an alloy made from frozen carbon dioxide. What do you mean, “can you drink it?” It’s not like a margarita, if that’s what you’re thinking. Even if you could, you certainly wouldn’t want to. No, he managed to get out, actually. It’s not like I wanted him to escape. He had help, you know. He didn’t just waltz right out of the carbonite. Some kid called Skyscraper or Skymall or something. I don’t remember. Well, maybe next time you should try running a syndicate full of bounty-hunters, smugglers, assassins and criminals of every type along with the entertainment; the dancing girls, droids, the bitchy house band and enough reprobate aliens to occupy Cloud City! I’m sorry. I’m sorry. God, I get so tense. No, sit down, sir. Do I look like I could take it outside? Well that really hurts, sir. Would you like it if I called you a “poo-covered slug?” I didn’t think so. Can I continue? Please? Thank you.

Okay, uh, oh yeah. Take tomorrow, for instance. I have this thing tomorrow. I was going to have a bunch of people dumped into the Sarlac pit. No, it’s not in the woods. Just think of it as a big anus-looking thing with teeth, okay? Yeah, it’s kind of like a monster, but different. The thing is, I really want this process to work. I’m serious this time about staying sober for me. So, I’m thinking I might just call the whole thing off, you know? What better time than the present to change your life. It’s like what Goethe says, you know, “Nothing is worth more than this day.” I’m just so scared. I mean, the blackouts, the rum-shakes. It’s every single day. I’ve missed out on so much. I never learned to drive. I’ve never seen Lohengrin performed at La Scala. I’ve got a ski lodge on Hoth I’ve never even been to. No, it’s an opera by Wagner. Of course it’s good. I’ve never skied or snowboarded, so I don’t know. I’ve heard Aspen is nice. Too many tourists, you say? Well, what can you do? No, I’m not trying to be dismissive, it’s just been my turn to talk and you keep interrupting. Just because you’ve never been to Hoth doesn’t mean there isn’t one. I’m not trying to be pretentious. Look, I have a problem and I need support right now. Oh, that’s very clever. Yes, it probably would take the Chrysler Building to support me. I’m fat. I’m a drunk. I’ve done some terrible things, but one of the first things we said after the prayer was that we weren’t here to judge one another. We are here to admit we’re powerless against alcohol.

Okay, sir…I’m sure you do know the blue book better than I do; like I said, it’s my first day. I am legitimately proud of you that you’ve been sober for two years. Hey, I’m not trying to make it a contest. I just want to stop drinking. I wasn’t saying I knew more about Genesis than you do. Why are you so hell-bent on antagonizing me? I know he did “Shock the Monkey,” but before that he was in Genesis. Albums? Well, there’s The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway, uh…Selling England by The Pound…I beg your pardon? Look it up then, dingleberry! You know what — I’ve had it with you. I’ve had it up to here with you and this group and that stupid chair in this stupid gym with this stupid meeting. Salacious! Salacious Crumb! Come in here and give me a hand, you little troll. No, screw you. Screw ALL of you. Ouch! Hold on, I’m not all the way in the harness. Oh, Jeez, I think my gall bladder just popped. No, I’m leaving. Take your twelve steps and shove them up your cans…Salacious, are Han Solo and all those idiots still up by the Sarlac pit? Well, come on. Stop fidgeting, you’re freaking me out. No, we’re doing it today. Today! Man, I need a drink.

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