Saturday, September 09, 2006

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Dealership Quote of the Month - July

From a conversation between three managers, that initially was about a customer that couldn’t get what he wanted:

Manager 1: “…Well, I want Shania Twain, wearing nothing but a mink coat, but that ain’t going to happen.”
Manager 2: “Buddy, I been waiting for that forever. My wife gets mad everytime she comes on TV. She knows I’d drop her in a heartbeat.”
Manager 3: “Carmen Electra…Pamela Anderson…see, I like the whores.”
Manager 1: “What’s that big-tittied one’s name?”
Manager 3: “Pamela Anderson?”
Manager 1: “No, the other one?”
Manager 3: “Anna Nicole Smith?”
Manager 1: “Yeah, her. More power to her, for getting that old guy’s money.”

--Overheard during an unknown blues song.

Note: The satellite radio channel at the dealership has changed again, to what I would guess is called Americana. So now, I get to hear insipid comments set to the likes of Son Volt, The Jayhawks and Stevie Ray Vaughn. Somehow, having some of my favorite music playing in the background makes me question every choice I've ever made in life.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

I Have a Dream #6: ‘70s Exploitation Movie Edition

It started with a slight variation of the Forgot-to-Go-to-Class-All-Semester/Missed-the-Final-Exam dream. In this case, I was supposed to leave Louisville to drive back to Austin for the beginning of a semester, but I had to run a bunch of errands around Louisville before I could go and I had yet to pack and it was raining hard. The semester’s classes were to start on Tuesday, and I was still in Louisville at 3 PM on Monday. Certainly, not as catastrophic as forgetting an entire semester’s worth of classes or forgetting a final, but nonetheless, the dream left me disconcerted about my poor trip planning.

Next, I found myself in a truck stop in a remote area of Arkansas along with about twenty other patrons, all stuck in a slow moving line to pay for gas and purchase Slim Jims. As I waited, a dangerous gang of ne’re-do-wells began to file into the truck stop. The men all sported scraggly mullets, bushy untrimmed beards that extended down their necks and into their collar lines, and filthy denim outfits. All appeared high on crystal meth and agitated. The gang also had their old ladies in tow, as well as a handful of children. How tough was this gang? The children, a handful of boys, age nine to eleven, had the same thick beards as their fathers.

The other patrons and I knew the drill. Scary men show up, so now we have to be hostages. The gang didn’t actually threaten us, but they always seemed on the cusp of doing so. Through a series of grunts, glares and nods, the gang herded us to a nearby, secluded, dusty farm. Implicit in this choice of location, were beatings, fondlings, leerings and other various humiliations sure to come. My greatest concern, however, was verisimilitude. Though I knew I was in Arkansas, the location seemed too mountainous and dry. It looked more like Malibu Canyon, filming location for such shows as M.A.S.H. (That doesn’t look like Korea!), Little House on the Prairie (That doesn’t look like Minnesota!), and The Dukes of Hazard (That doesn’t look like Georgia!).

A group of hostages, including me, was instructed to go into town and purchase food for the gang and the rest of the hostages. Once we were in the grocery store, a particularly shrill and nerdy hostage suggested that we act out against our captors by only purchasing canned chicory and creamed corn. That’s the kind of passive aggressive move that will get your Poindexter-ass dragged behind their motorcycles, I thought. We ended up buying a grocery cart full of gray meat beef ribs. Yum.

Purchase this for a motorcycle gang if you want to get your ass kicked.

The gang in the dream never intimidated me, since I somehow knew that I was the unstoppable protagonist in this scenario. I bided my time trying to decide which scruffy outlaw to subdue first. I would then take his pistol and shoot the rest. But I worried that it would not look cool enough unless I shot all the gangsters in a quick, economic and meticulous fashion. If I struggled to wrest the gun away from the first tough, then the rest of the action sequence would likely be a clumsy, un-cool affair. So while the rest of the captives cowered in fear, I calmly surveyed the setting with a mind toward lighting conditions and camera angles. The dream ended before I felt sufficiently cool enough to act. Story…of…my…life.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

I Have A Dream #5: Subterranean Pizza Delivery Edition

I attended a dinner party at a Craftsman-style home in what I knew to be Cincinnati, though no recognizable places from that city appeared in my dream. I arrived at the party as a passenger in a Honda Accord, driven through heavy rain and standing water in the streets. The driver was an indistinct female.

We were greeted by a small gathering of people, all indistinct, in the foyer. A small door in the foyer, under the stairs to the second floor, led to another set of wooden, open stairs that went down to the basement. The basement itself was a small concrete slab of foundation that then opened to a cavern lit by bare, hanging bulbs. That cavern continued to descend until it joined a larger cavern with an underground river at its center. All the older homes in this version of Cincinnati had basements connected to this system of caverns.

Pizza delivery drivers utilized the cavern system. Papa Johns was catering this dinner party, and the crowd was waiting in the foyer for the delivery person to ascend the stairs. The underground river made the caverns dangerous for the pizza delivery persons, much more so, given the heavy rain. The hosts and guests all understood that delivery boys often drowned in the caves on nights like this one. All in attendance seemed mildly embarrassed by this possibility. The pizza boy peeked into the foyer, handed over a stack of boxes and trudged back down for the return trip. He had been late, and received no tip.

“Your pizza’s here.”

At the table, I felt too shy to do anything other than listen and nod. Bill Përkins, who attended grades one through twelve with me and taught me how to cuss when we were safety patrols in the fifth grade, dominated the conversation at the table. He was now a women’s basketball coach at a small Christian college, and was embroiled in a sex scandal with several of his players. He spent the meal complaining that “the bitches are framing me and anyway, they were asking for it.”

Next came the oft-experienced Eli-In-Danger portion of the dream. Usually, this standard involves Eli, collarless, happily sniffing weeds on the median of a busy highway. When I try to wrangle him in these dreams, he usually commences his ears-pinned-back-crazy-happy-running and veers into traffic, though he never actually gets hit. This particular Eli-In-Danger moment wasn’t as harrowing, as he merely sauntered into the room, collarless, from the cavern. He dripped icy water, having swam in the underground stream, and seemed quite pleased with himself. As we were in a confined space, I didn’t feel the panicked need to corral him. However, the dream ended with me in an upstairs bedroom, rooting through closets and dressers, trying to find belts or scarves to use a makeshift leash to get Eli home. Awkward.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Heartache and Longing

I parked next to the evening receptionist’s car yesterday. Her bumper stickers include:

  1. Bush/Cheney 2004
  2. Happiness Is A Republican President
  3. My Belongs To A Trucker
On the passenger side seat, in plain view, was an open box of Tampax and a carton of Camel cigarettes. Oh, how I wish I could work up the nerve to ask her out on a date.

Truck Sellin’ Music

No more hits of the 80s. It took me a day and half to realize that the Sirius channel playing over the PA here had been switched to country music. No more absurd juxtapositions of 20+ year-old pop music and inane statements. Most of the things I overhear on the lot fall into line with a Nashville pop score. I’m disappointed, but heartened to know that I retain the ability to almost completely block out country music, as evidenced by the amount of time it took me to notice it.

Thursday, June 08, 2006



Dealership Quotes of the Day - Week of 06/05/06

“Looky here! What’d ya say there, Easy Money?”
--directed at me during Doctor! Doctor!, by Thompson Twins

“Y’all are a bunch of crooks.”
--overheard during Suddenly Last Summer, by The Motels

Friday, June 02, 2006

Dealership Quotes of the Day - Week of 05/29/06

More browbeatings and non-sequiturs, set to hits of the 1980s.

Coworker (unsolicited): “This packet of balloons here? These cost twenty dollars.”
Me: “They blow up into funny shapes?”
/confused silence
--directed at me during The Glamorous Life, by Sheila E.

The men’s room stall garbage can strikes again. I just noticed a discarded pair of tighty-whiteys sitting in the top of the receptacle. I can’t say whether they belonged to an employee or a customer. Most disturbing, however, is that I had an internal debate lasting 30-45 seconds about whether or not I should find something to prod the orphaned undergarment in order to survey the full extent of the damage necessitating abandonment. Someone send help.
--found during The Tide Is High, by Blondie

"It doesn't get more professional than a manager with Enter Sandman as his ringtone."
--said by me, during Rain in the Summertime, by The Alarm

"You need to get off your fat, fucking ass and get out there and move some metal."
--overheard during Heart and Soul, by Huey Lewis and the News

Friday, May 26, 2006

Ultimate Fight Club


Dealership Quotes of the Day - Week of 05/22/06

The dealership quote of the day will submitted with little or no context, and will not be daily.

This week, the Big 80s channel on Sirius Satellite is being played over the PA.

"See, that's why I say we should still have debtor's prisons."
--overheard during Danger Zone, by Kenny Loggins

Unsolicited, context-less statement from Itsbeginningtolookalotlikechristmas:
"Gosh, I can't believe that...Next year, I will be out of high school for 30 years."
--Somehow, this statement makes me want to kill myself.

--directed at me during Saved by Zero, by The Fixx (again)

Me: "I'll look it up. How do you spell the last name?"
Coworker: "Goddamn, I've know the man ten years and can't spell his name. Name's Guido. He's an Italian fella." (prononunced AYE-tal-yin)
--directed at me during Get Into the Groove, by Madonnna

"Woo-wee. Fancy urinal cakes. I feel like I'm at a movie theater (pronounced thee-ATE-er)."
--overheard during Stand or Fall, by The Fixx

"You got an irregular (prononunced ur-regular) heartbeat? Me too."
--overheard during Destination Unknown, by Missing Persons

Thursday, February 16, 2006

I Have a Dream #4: Extreme Home Makeover Edition

Three weeks into the new house, I had yet to remember a single dream until the night before last. I attribute this to sound sleep, as a result of going to bed exhausted on almost a nightly basis. But on Tuesday night, I’d had chili cheese fries at EZs, which caused me to toss and turn all night. Also, Eli decided sleep on the bed with me, but instead of sleeping on his side with his back to me, he slept with his legs toward me. He must have had chili cheese fries too, because around 3 AM, he had a dream that made his hind legs jerk and kick me repeatedly in the small of my back. Anyway, restless sleep usual correlates pretty strongly with crazy, memorable dreams for me.

As with my last memorable dream, last night’s falls into the my-recently-purchased-house-has-all-sorts-of-problems category. Again the house I had purchased was in the neighborhood in which I was raised. But instead of it being the Yocum house across the street from my parents, this house was located several blocks away on Gateway Drive. I can’t remember clearly any of the actual houses on that particular stretch of block, but for some reason, that nondescript stretch of neighborhood makes frequent appearances in my dreams.

I was moving into the house, with the help of most of my extended family (Shröats, not Müllikins). The house looked like many of the homes I looked at in Allandale and Rosedale. Specifically, fifty to sixty year-old shit-box, teardowns for which I’d basically have had to pay $250,000 for just the lot.

As I began to unload my moving van, I noticed an elderly black woman, with her own moving van, directing movers toward my house. She kept saying, “Make them drapes down to nine quarter inches, make them drapes down to nine quarter inches.” I immediately confronted her, and demanded to see her “papers” for the house. “This isn’t your house, old lady, this is my house. Why do you think it’s your house? Where are your papers, where are your papers?” She seemed confused, and I noticed that she had a large retinue of elderly black women with her. Some were morbidly obese; others were shriveled crones; many had walkers; and all had facial hair in the form of random, irregular whiskers. Despite their collective confusion, I continued to berate them and their movers, finally bullying them back into their moving van and away from my house. I don’t suffer from white, liberal guilt in slumberland.

After dispatching Pearl Bailey, I entered the house to find a host of problems. The house was a duplex, and the smaller, “rental” portion was a mess. Upon seeing it, I told my mother, “this is all kinds of fucked up.” Most of the flooring was either rotten wood or rotten linoleum with dangerously large holes. The previous tenants had left their crappy furnishings in the house and most of it was damp and sticky.

The other half of the duplex was marginally better. Most of the rooms were reminiscent of the basements in houses from my childhood neighborhood, with stucco sprayed, concrete walls and small, long windows at the very top of the walls. Of particular note was the kitchen, which was entirely pink and fuchsia. The walls were textured to resemble hardened, rosy meringue waves.
As with my last dream, this house also had some bizarre plumbing choices. In my bedroom, directly adjacent to the head my bed was a brown, metal, pedestal style drinking fountain. The fountain didn’t drain properly, and using it caused my pillows to become soaked. In short, the house was going to need a bit of work.

So compelling was the dream, that I actually fell back into it after getting up to drag Eli’s lanky ass off of my bed and onto his own. Again, I had to confront the elderly black woman who still seemed determined to have my drapes altered. My house doesn’t have, nor ever will have, drapes. But since the dream, I’ve been keeping a closer eye on my window treatments. I can’t be certain, but some of my Venetian blinds seem to be missing slats.

Friday, January 13, 2006

I Have a Dream #3: New Homeowner Edition

I’ve discovered the new equivalent to the forgot-to-go-to-class-all-semester/forgot-to-study-for-the-final dream (which I still have, thank you grad school). Introducing the my-recently-purchased-house-has-all-sorts-of-problems dream. Great.

The house of my literal dream has a wet bar in the ill-advised location of just inside the front door. The bar had at least three sinks of various sizes, all of which were leaking. Water was puddling in the floor all around the bar, and I was trying to soak it up with towels. That’s when I noticed that my living room floor had several drains built into the hardwood, apparently to accommodate the leaky wet bar. The bar’s design was reminiscent of an airplane bathroom. The sinks themselves were thin metal, but the rest of the bar was brown plastic. One of the sinks was mounted on an articulated arm, like the mini-sinks found mounted on dentists’ chairs. Several dental instruments were attached. I used the water-pik, until I realized that it greatly increased the leaking.

My living room had a ratty, tattered Persian rug with gaping holes. The holes exposed a dirty, frosted, Plexiglas window. The center of my living room has a glass bottom, for drawing in light from under the house I suppose.

I went outside, and it turns out that I’ve bought the Yocum house, a trashy home across the street from where I was raised. The Yocum house was now raised on 3-foot pillars, to better accommodate the floor-window. The yard was a sea of cinderblocks. Next door was the devastated remains of what used to be the Hanif house, which belonged to a Pakistani family when I was a kid. It looked like a tornado had destroyed it years ago and no one had rebuilt it.

And finally, the cherry on top, my Explorer was parked in the driveway, minus its right front fender, which had completely corroded. The right front tire had melted into a sticky but solid, marshmallow-like mass.

I’m already dreading a dream about the kitchen.

Fa La La La La

Night Owl


Thursday, January 05, 2006

Celebrating in Style


Shröät Family 2005 Review

Greetings, friends and family! Well, 2005 has been an eventful year for the Shröäts, as I’m sure those of you who follow the local news already know! (Chuckle, chuckle.) I want to start by reassuring all of you that we are confident that we will prevail in the lawsuits brought against for what we consider to be petty misunderstandings. But more about that later, as I don’t want to start this letter off as a Negative Nelly!

First, the biggest news of the year. On June 14 (Flag Day! My favorite!) Zuzanna and I welcomed our fourth child, Lars, into the world. At 9 pounds, 10 ounces, I was understandably a little ashamed of Zuzanna for producing such a low birth weight baby (our last child was 12 lbs. 4 oz. and the twins were a combined weight of 19 lbs. 5 oz.). After all, I didn’t marry a Slovakian ten years my junior to produce scrawny kids (I could have married an American, “career” woman for that. Zing! Ha ha!). However, Zuzanna has promised to do better next time, and the runt was close enough to ten pounds that I decided not to throw him into Lake Travis in a weighted, burlap sack. Hey, I don’t have to tell any of you that sometimes, marriage involves compromise! Especially when there’s a language barrier.

As with our other children, Lars is just a placeholder name until we decide how we want to raise him, thematically. I’m leaning toward raising him as a heavy metal drummer (hence the name) but Zuzanna has always wanted a goth, shock-rocker. I keep asking her, “Do we really want to have to deal with all those buckets of goat blood?” I mean, come on…the smell. If, however, Zuzanna wins out, we’ve nearly settled on a name. I like Ethan Nunpuncher Shröät. She favors Crucifixpisser Brandon Shröät. I’m sure we’ll come to a decision in the next few months (we’ve got a nursery to decorate, after all!). We’ll keep you posted.

The twins, Nigel and Elsbeth, turned 6 this year and are already in the second grade. Zuzanna and I couldn’t be happier with our decision to raise them British. Ah, British children…so polite…so clean. I swear it’s like dirt won’t stick to them. And they say things like “ever so much”, “if you please” and “tarry”. Adorable! We’ve started both of them in a youth soccer league, or as they like to call it, football. Elsbeth shows promise, but Nigel is lagging. Suzanna thinks I ride him too hard, but I believe he lacks motivation. Here’s an argument we had during “football” season.

Nigel: “I’d much prefer to play cricket, if you please, father”

Me: “Look Neville, if I wanted a cricket player, I’d have raised you Pakistani.”

Nigel: “I thought my name was Nigel.”

Me: “What’s the difference?”

Alas, even British children can be difficult and ungrateful at times. They have no appreciation of the Lend-Lease Act, which gave their people the munitions and equipment to resist the Nazis during the early days of World War II. I try not to bring up the burning of the original White House by the redcoats during the War of 1812 when I punish them, but sometimes that grudge is difficult to forget.

In June, Zuzanna’s mother, Zofia, came to visit (live, as it turns out) from Bratislava. She surprises us nearly every day with the culinary malleability of cabbage, beets and turnips. Unfortunately, her extensive cooking has forced us to replace much of the drywall in the kitchen and adjacent rooms. It seems the smell had permeated the structure and there was no other way to get rid of it. However, we just completed converting the space over the garage into her “mother in law” chambers, and I’m sure all the parties involved are excited about that. Well, Zuzanna still isn’t happy that her mother has to use a 15-foot ladder to get to and from her room, but Zofia doesn’t seem to mind. That old bird has been through a lot. Communism. I think maybe some war or something. Maybe a potato famine? Or was it beets? Regardless, getting to live above the garage of one of the nicest homes of the Phase II development zone of the nicest gated community in greater Austin (I won’t say which as I don’t want to brag!), is probably far beyond her wildest dreams. And so what if the space above the garage isn’t heated? It’s central Texas for Christ’s sake. I’m sure I’ll have to endure a new round of bitching once the weather turns hot again, as the space isn’t air conditioned either. But as I told Zuzanna just the other day, “When I rescued you from oily tendrils of the eastern European porn trade, it wasn’t because I wanted to watch you and your mother sit around the kitchen table and smoke cigarettes and jabber in the crazy language of yours.” She suggested I climb the ladder and sleep above the garage! I responded, “I’ll do that as soon as you learn how to not spend $500 every time you go to the goddamn grocery!” We both know that means never. Marriage involves compromise.

In October, I had my first screenplay optioned by Lions Gate. Finally! Many of you have been suggesting for years that I stop wasting my time writing Colonel Sanders fan fiction. At times, I didn’t think The Colonel Chronicles would ever find an audience. But then I got wise and stopped submitting short stories to snooty, elitist publications like The New Yorker and Harper’s, and started working on a script. Because, really, the adventures of young Harlan Sanders as he battles the nefarious Kaiser Wilhelm II with delicious fried poultry, are best seen and not read. It was hard to convey the action in a story, especially since I quickly exhausted adjectives for describing fried food. But in a screenplay, where the action of the story must be conveyed in simplistic terms that any moron (producers, actors, directors) can understand, the action comes alive. We start shooting in Corbin, KY in April.

Finally, it’s been a year or ups and downs with our 4 year old son, N!xau. From the start, our decision to raise him as !Kung San (or, as our racist neighbors have labeled him, “that bushman child”) was not a popular one. Most of you don’t share my acute fear of the impending collapse of modern society, when having a hunter-gatherer in the family will prove prudent. I freely admit the unfortunate irony of making our most fair-skinned child live in our backyard during the central Texas summer. But for a while, it looked as if Zuzanna wouldn’t be able to get pregnant again, which left me with the unenviable dilemma of finding another breeder or giving our plump, redheaded boy a loin cloth, a lean-to shelter and a few sharp sticks and putting him outside. But, after a rough start and despite neighbors’ lawsuits, N!xau (formerly Phillip) has started to get the hang of things.

In the first few weeks, that little fatty was a walking sunburn, but at least I knew he was manufacturing plenty of vitamin D. By the time he’d burned and peeled half a dozen times however, he’d essentially turned into one big freckle and the weather was no longer his biggest concern. Food was, as we quickly learned that all the berries and plants in our yard, as well and our immediate neighbors’ yards, were poisonous. Not kill-you poisonous, just immobilizing-belly-ache poisonous. Don’t think for a second that it didn’t hurt me, as a father, to gaze out the kitchen window and see him lying under our picnic table, moaning in pain. It hurt me even more to have to put down my lemonade, step out of the A/C and explain to him that the !Kung San don’t have picnic tables in the Kalahari and that he needed to construct his own shelter. But the little trooper, I’m proud to say, crawled out from under the table without a complaint and, ironically, under the very bushes that had made him so ill. Frankly, the weight loss was beneficial in the long run, as the !Kung San are a lean people.

Just as N!xau turned the corner on the road to self-sufficiency, our troubles with the neighbors (and by extension the courts and the local news) started. The McKittrick family didn’t share my pride in the ingenuity that N!xau showed in constructing the snare that allowed him to capture, kill and eat their dog Muffin. He’d only been living outside for six weeks at that point! They also took no solace in the fact that N!xau used every part of Muffin, wasting nothing. The local television bloodsuckers did not celebrate his efficiency and ingenuity either, as they reported on the “Wild Child of Lago Vista”. A child is automatically assumed to be feral because he lives off the land? Bigots! They can’t comprehend a culture that is not their own. N!xau has no word for war.

Fortunately, N!xau lured Muffin off the McKittrick property and his thorough use of the carcass left scant evidence for the police or child protective services. The McKittricks can’t prove that Muffin was baited, and Travis County has a leash law to which they, obviously, did not adhere. We have a court date set for early February. I’m confident we’ll prevail and N!xau remains in our custody in the meantime.

Since the Muffin incident, I’ve encouraged N!xau to range a little farther from home. He’s had a lot of success in the Phase I portion of our subdivision, which is non-gated and many of the homes abut the golf course and have no fences. I felt a little pang of guilt as the missing pet flyers became more prevalent at the entrance to our subdivision. Unfortunately, we live in a world in which not everyone has parents willing to pay for graduate school thus allowing them to later afford to live in the gated estate section where their pets would be safe from my son. N!xau seems especially fond of Labs, as they provide an ideal (to his evolving palate) mix of fat and lean flesh. He says that yellow Labs taste the best, though I don’t believe that the color of their coat would make a difference in their flavor. Or maybe he’s trying to tell me something completely different. I confess that the addition of glottal clicks to his phonemic repertoire has made him difficult to understand.

Probably our biggest challenge with N!xau was existential in nature. Late in the summer, N!xau returned to our backyard, after a three night hunting trip into Phase I, with an empty, glass Coca Cola bottle. He presented it to me with fear and reverence and through a combination of gestures, dirt drawings and glottal clicks, he managed to ask, “The Gods…they must be crazy?” Poor kid, I thought. “Yes, N!xau, they are.”