Saw one. For about seven seconds. I’m sitting at my desk and I look up through my dusty screen door and up on the highest branch I was able to reach, fluttering and hovering like a fruit punch-loving helicopter, is a lone hummingbird drinking from the feeder I put up there. It’s the first one I’ve seen venture to have a drink at it. I made no sound. I silently brought my farmer’s tanned arms up into the air like a rigid eleven, flexed them, shot them up into the air again, maybe three times in toto, and marveled at what was happening. And what was happening? Something completely ordinary. A hummingbird taking a drink from a feeder. I’m starting to cheer when things that are supposed to happen happen. He looked down at the spigots, he judgmentally veered his head to one side, he righted it, then plunged his hypodermic beak right into that fruit faucet (it’s not really fruit, but I like to think the more health conscious hummingbirds out there deny what it is they’re really drinking and pretend that sticky red nectar [it’s probably not really nectar either; I’m sure I’m poisoning them] is just some great Vitamin C with which to start their day, or end it; does a hummingbird ever quit?) and siphoning back one quarter nanoliter before flying away like the fickle little bitch it was. (How do I know the gender of the bird? Look, all I know is it was flying like a bitch, okay? Male or female. Flying like a snooty, freaked out, holier-than-thou snob. It flew like it was somehow representing all hummingbirds. I was like: “Honey, relax.”)
I know what’s going to happen now. She’s going to report back to her colleagues (by the way, what do you call a gang of hummingbirds? A college? A clan? A beat?) on the quality of the nectar. She’s the scout. She’s the Yelp of hummingbirds. What’s she going to say to them?
“Difficult to find and difficult to like. Matt Champagne’s Nectar Sector offers none of the sweet finish of your favorite nectars with none of the atmosphere. Whose idea was it to hang a feeder in an atrium? Why do I have to perform a seven-degree angle dive just to get to the place? Not that I can’t perform a seven degree angle dive; it’s just that if I do, it had better be worth my while. I had about one quarter nanoliter (good guess!) and knew I wasn’t long for this place. The nectar is store-bought (eww), and maybe the nicest thing I can say about it is it’s pretty. I mean, it’s red. The ants like it. I ate one of the ants. Do you like ants? Then you will love Matt Champagne’s Nectar Sector.”
It’s like, how can someone who drinks alone have the nerve to talk smack like that?
Yesterday I hear sirens and see flashing lights on a truck coming toward me. I pull over to let it by and I see, printed on its side, the words “BOMB SQUAD.” The truck is headed back toward my place.
Do I turn around to see if it’s actually headed to my apartment? No. I go to my audition. Like the dead-inside bot that I am. Speaking of bots, I didn’t see any in the back of the truck. Doesn’t the Bomb Squad use robots to go into a place and check things out to make sure they’re safe? I’d like to use a robot to attend parties for me.
I’ve never seen that before: A pick-up truck with sirens that says BOMB SQUAD on the side? It looked fake. In fact, out loud, I said: “Bullshit.” I thought the Bomb Squad traveled in a tank-like vehicle with proper protective doors and a large crane to deal with explosives from a safe distance. Why does the Bomb Squad tool around in my uncle’s pick-up that he takes to Lake Havisu every other weekend? And where were they going? My place? The only bombs there are my jokes! (HEEEEEY-no.)
I think it’d be funny if the guys in that truck were actually some kind of tech support and they just call themselves The Bomb Squad. And drive around with sirens a blare. “We got hard drives to back up! One side!”
A bomb squad truck? Going up a residential street? If I didn’t have somewhere to be, I would’ve turned right the hell around and followed them. I’d be like: “Where are you going?” Who called them? Did someone see a suspicious object? In L.A., a book counts as a suspicious object. God, I hope I see that truck again. I mean, I don’t want anything to blow up, but I’d like to see what these guys look like. They’re probably all a bunch of surfers.
I shot a gun once in the Boy Scouts. It was a rifle. Its recoil slammed the butt into my left armpit like a giant’s boot: this sudden, violent punt right back into me, like an angry three-ton hammer. I thought I had been shot. I was like: “Wait a minute. Is it supposed to hurt the guy firing it?” Somewhere there’s a picture of me shooting this thing. As a troop, we were lucky no one got hurt.
I don’t remember where we were. Somewhere in the Angeles National Forest, maybe. Does that narrow it down? Southern California has so many hot, mountainous places for Boy Scouts with asthma to get isolated and summarily scarred, it could’ve been anywhere. All I know is, we each took turns laying down on the grass with this rifle, sniper style. (One way you know I don’t know shit about guns is that I use the phrase “sniper style.”) And we took turns shooting into some trees. Just trees. There were no perimeter walls set up. No barriers. Not even a target that I can remember. We just shot into a copse of trees like a bunch of murderous morons. With adult supervision! Beyond and about ten feet below the trees was a dried out river bed on which—I think—some guys had been riding their ATV’s. We were shooting just above their route. No one got shot. But whenever someone dies at a shooting range and it’s in the news, I think about this camping trip. I think about that scary-ass rifle. I think about how there were no official or professional safety measures on hand that day. The rifle’s owner was right there with us, coaching us through stuff, but I still think a bunch of twelve-year-olds shouldn’t have been anywhere near that gun. I think about how one kid, Danny, cried after he shot the rifle. The kick was bigger than he thought it was going to be and it hurt. Or maybe it was just his feelings that got hurt. Guns will hurt your feelings.
Don’t people get drunk and go hunting all the time? Where are they? So I can stay the hell away from them.
I used to play poker every Tuesday night with these guys and you know how you just talk about everything? I guess for whatever reason, I was talking about the drinking fountains at my grade school (or I guess it might’ve been my kindergarten). There were four spigots at the fountain and I remember some kid assigning each one, from left to right, the following beverages: coffee, tea, soda pop, pee. There is nothing more to this memory than that. Coffee, tea, soda pop, pee. Still in touch with our imaginations, we would always opt for the third one because we were annoying children. But years later, when I said it one night at poker—“Coffee, tea, soda pop, pee”—my friend Zach said: “What the hell is that?” And I explained to him the story of the spigots and the what-not. And for the rest of the night, he couldn’t stop. It was “Coffee, tea, soda pop, pee” all night long. And then I started saying it. And I started thinking about what if a waiter listed those for you as your beverage options? Like he goes, in all sincerity: “Well, we have coffee. We have tea. We have soda pop. Or would you like to try pee?” And you’d be all: “Hmm. Pee?” Like it was this exquisite new beverage that you shouldn’t rush to judge. “What’s the matter? You too good for pee?”
At my next birthday, I got the t-shirt you see in the photo above. It’s my head (wearing a Mandarin hat with a tassel) superimposed onto the face of an old-timey soda jerk. Underneath is the caption: “Coffee? Tea? Root Beer Float? Pee?” Because it was known to the other players how much I love the damn root beer floats. I will occasionally exercise in this shirt. I wore it to the gym today and two (yeah, two) staff members stopped me and said: “Is that you?” I said: “Yeah.” They said: “What does it say underneath?” I said: “Read my blog.”
Dear Guy In Griffith Park With His Shirt Pulled Up Over His Belly:
I get it. I really do. It’s hot. You’re fat. You won’t get out of your car because that would require moving. So you’re just gonna sit there in your 2002 gray Honda like a giant, abandoned almond and hike that light blue “Maui Now!” t-shirt up over your bulbous belly and live, man. It doesn’t look like you’re meeting anyone. Parks often provide easy rendezvous places for those desperate for intimate connections with strangers. You look like you’re doing something you’re not allowed to do at home. You’re here to not be around someone else. Who is it? Who’re you avoiding? Is it your wife? Is it? What did she do? She probably didn’t do anything. It’s what she is. Is it her voice? Can you not stand her voice? Is she wearing the pants in your marriage? And the shoes? And the socks? And the button-down shirts? Is your only reprieve from her dominance driving to Griffith Park, parking under a tree, rolling down all your windows and pulling up the t-shirt your daughter from another marriage got you when her wealthy stepfather took her to Hawaii? If so, then let that belly be, boy! Sport it! Touch it! Flop that giant biscuit-shaped gut partially onto the bottom of your steering wheel like an American and kick the hell back, bro. Unleash that terrible tummy into the world. Into the public world. There ain’t nothing indecent about this exposure. I think all the men in Fight Club could’ve had the same sense of release if they had—instead of punching each other—simply taken a few minutes out of their sad days to go to the park and let their stomachs breath a little under a tree in a 2002 gray Honda.
Oh, wait a minute. You also got your hand down your pants. I didn’t see that. Forget I said anything.
RunKeeper is this app that tells me how many miles I go and how long it took and how many minutes I spent to go one mile and how many calories I burned (the determination of which involves basic math and my body weight, I know, but I still think any piece of technology that can accurately calculate the burning of calories from my body should be actually inside my body and I don’t think anything is—though, if I’m wrong, I would in no way be shocked) and the elevation I’m running and the speed I’m running and my favorite color and movie and how many times during the day I hear the song Human by Human League in my head (it’s eleven) and how long it’s been since I’ve been to the eye doctor and stuff like that. RunKeeper tells you everything. And it’s designed to be really positive and optimistic about the exercise you do. The first time I used it, I ran eight point seven miles in one hour, thirty-one minutes and twenty seconds, each mile took me an average of ten minutes and thirty seconds and I burned one thousand, one hundred and forty-eight calories. Since it was the first time I had used it, RunKeeper considered all of these achievements to be record breakers because it had nothing to which it could previously compare them. Now whenever I do anything that supercedes a prior record, no matter how small, the app throws a little parade for me: “Congratulations! New Distance Record!” Or: “Hey! New Longest Duration!” Or: “How’s the whether up there? New Elevation Record!” Or anything. Anything at all. RunKeeper is always finding some little thing you did and celebrates it like you discovered the cure for herpes.
“Congratulations! You just achieved Longest Amount of Time Without Thinking About That One Grade School Teacher You Hate! Twelve minutes! Good job!”
“Congratulations! You just achieved Longest Amount Of Time Without Thinking About That One College Professor You Hate! Six minutes! Good job!”
“Congratulations! You just achieved Longest Fart Whilst On The Move! Eleven seconds! Good job!”
“Congratulations! You just achieved Dirtiest Socks On The Jogging Trail! Level 5 Soil Concentration! Good job!”
“Congratulations! You just achieved Most Rationalizations For Not Asking Out That Woman You Like! Three In The Last Hour! Good job!”
The only animals that eat from this hummingbird feeder are ants. I mean, let’s call this what it is: It’s an ant feeder now. No one else is interested. Am I gonna be that guy who sits all day peering out his screen door hoping for just one glimpse of one ballsy hummingbird to belly up to the bar and throw back a few? What’re they afraid of? What, are they too good for some generic PetCo nectar? What are they used to? A 1934 Brazilian Verbeña? Hey, you hyper birds! Sorry I couldn’t provide the smooth finish and sweet ride of a new Wild Bergamot for you guys. Snobs. What do you want? Sweet Pepperbush? What is that, a sugary lager? With pepper in it? Do I have to home brew nectar to make a bunch of fickle hummingbirds like me?
I just closely examined the base of this thing and the ants are not only drinking the stuff (you can see their translucently red abdomens engorged with the store-bought product), some of them appear to be dying from it. Or if not dying, at least rendered immobile by the stuff. Maybe they’re in red nectar ecstasy, laying there belly up going: “I’m blind…blind from nectar!” Riding the wheel like a bunch of fifties era jazz musicians doing heroin. I was afraid this would happen. Many of them seem to be abusing it. Now I’m an enabler. Great. It’s all fun and games until you gotta run an intervention for a bunch of ants hopped up sugar.
The feeder’s riding too low, is the thing; I have to put it up on a higher branch. I could do that. With a ladder. Or a chair. Now I’m that guy. That guy who doesn’t have an influx of dogs or cats certainly, but is slowly getting obsessed with whether or not hummingbirds are interested in his feeder. I haven’t seen one bird come over. When I do, can I finally take this feeder down? When that one low-rent hummingbird deigns to fly over for a few drinks of this cheap-ass nectar, can I then finally move on with my life of naps and breakfast burritos? Can I then finally move to other hobbies, like lint collecting?
Why do I think that hanging this higher will lessen the likelihood of ants finding it? As if ants can’t climb. Isn’t that what ants do? But then I think: Well, if the hummingbirds don’t want it, and they clearly don’t want it, why not let the ants have it? To their credit, they only take the nectar in shifts. I saw them totally partying all over this thing on a Sunday, and for the next few days they were gone. Then they came back. Maybe they see that there are no birds who are into this shit so they go: “Well, guys, we can’t let this go to waste, can we? It’s not the best stuff. It’s no 1964 Purple Cornflower, but it’ll do. Right?”
The ants are fine though. They can drink and party all day and not get the cops called on them.
…so if you’re working toward a veggie strategy you wanna get that Land Agent occupation out as well as the Greenhouse, Market Stall and the Schnapps Distillery because they’re all pretty veggie oriented as well as the Market Woman since you wanna establish a strong food engine early on so you can focus on other things like building onto your house and having children but remember this is a game and you are in no way talking about your real life on account of there is no house and no children and no efficient food engine in your actual life due to your unwillingness to grow up which is evidenced by your need (it can’t really be called an interest anymore if it comes in a box with tiny little pieces and green boards with farm spaces painted on them; it is, at this point in your itchy and hairy life, most assuredly a need) to play these games instead of writing jokes and figuring out how to be a better a comedian or simply wanting to be any kind of comedian and maybe not answering back “Yes, I’ll be there!” whenever you get that text that says: “Farming tonight?” since you know you should go to a mic and you know you should be writing and you know you should listen and watch the tapes of your sets you’ve been doing so you can witness your own failure and do something about it instead of adding another area of your life where you do something that you’re not really good at but you don’t work on your comedy because you’d rather drive to the airport and figure out how to play Patron and Animal Pen cards and lose again at this really tough board game (sorry, table top game; they hate it when you call them board games; it’s like calling a daytime drama a soap; bad form), all of which reminds you that if you’re gonna play the Braggart, you gotta get nine improvements out which reminds you that the hardest thing about playing Agricola is being aware that you play Agricola…
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Thank God they fixed this sign. See what happens when you set goals for yourself? You too can change your neighborhood. Think locally.
Imagine the grating, wailing, tiresome bitching that had to happen to get “less” changed to “fewer” at this Trader Joe’s. What Scrabble®-playing, macramé-loving, bran-eating schoolmarm fought tooth and nail to fix this previously socially damaging sign? Because you know it came from one person. This is the work of one humorless, friend-free drag. Hell, she probably made the sign herself. There’s no way a large group of customers got together and clambered for change here.
“We will not rest until proper grammar is utilized at our check-out counters! We must rise up against the rampant tyranny of solecism and misunderstood syntax! Oh, and some of your carts are really hard to pull apart. That could be better.”
How many children’s morals were being twisted because that sign above the cashier used to say “15 Items Or Less”? First things first, right, Trader Joe’s? Let’s not fix that third world parking lot outside where you could easily die of rage trying to find a spot; it’s easier to get into the NFL. No, let’s fix that awful sign that corrupts our kids. And for all we know, it was the cashiers who asked for this. They were probably all: “If one more crusty widow comes up to me and goes: ‘It should be 15 Items Or Fewer,’ I’m gonna lift her onto the conveyor belt, scan her forehead and throw her into a bag. And charge her ten cents. You know, for the bag.”
While they’re at, they should probably fix that 1 too. Kind of looks like a 7. “75 Items Or Fewer.” Shit, I’m at seventy-seven!
Look at the sign though: The added correction looks like it’s Velcroed on there, like it’s temporary. It’d be funny if you took it down and underneath it said “Only.”
“Fifteen items only! That’s right! Exactly fifteen items please! One banana is one item! Let’s move it along! Zero complaints or fewer please!”
I was walking down the street yesterday and saw two LAPD officers peering down into a planter. I thought they had found needles or drugs or something. I couldn’t see what it was until I got closer.
They were looking at a butterfly.
In the midst of all these awful, grim stories about scary-ass cops and their cannons and tanks and anger, it was pretty nice to see that: A couple of cops cooing over a butterfly.
One said: “Yo, look.” The other said: “Oooh. Nice.” Thoroughly armed and geared up for all the filthy challenges they may have to face (or cause others to face), these two cops yesterday (I saw it) took time out to appreciate the natural beauty of an admittedly gorgeous butterfly in their jurisdiction. If they had gotten a call from the dispatcher right then, how would that have gone?
"41, you on 10-8?"
"10-4, dispatch. Currently investigating this absolutely gorgeous butterfly. Could be a monarch, could be an orange sulfur, could be a giant swallowtail."
"Copy that, 41. What’s the butterfly’s 20?"
"Was proceeding southbound on Larchmont, currently perched on what appear to be some real pretty hydrangeas."
"Proceed with caution, 41. It may have just been born."
"Understood, dispatch. Possible juvenile.”
They were really relaxed. No calls for the butterfly to step away from the flower. They didn’t ask if it knew how fast it was flying. They didn’t frisk it. They didn’t yell: “Lemme see your wings! Lemme see your wings!” None of that. Just two heavily armed and armored police officers diggin’ on nature, man.
What if they weren’t really cops? What if they were just two dudes on a date who like to dress up like cops, wear Kevlar and admire butterflies? There’re weirder things.
Then they left their squad car in a red zone and walked into a Chipotle.
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