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This is what I think about on Easter. Not bunnies, not eggs, not chocolate, not Jesus going: “Ta-da!” I think about this Star Trek comic book and record set I got in my Easter basket one year when I was like five or something. Passage To Moauv.
You put the record on and then you follow along. The Enterprise has to transport this creature called the waoul (pronounced WA-OOL) to the Moauvian ambassador (like you do), but the wails of the waoul make the crew all angry and beast-like. Mutiny-type stuff.
At one point Spock, who I loved as a kid, gets into a brawl. Yeah. Spock! A brawl! A fistfight! How uncouth! And he walks onto the bridge with his uniform all ripped up. Spock’s totally jacked! His blue shirt ripped and torn with holes and he’s all unkempt. Kirk’s all: “Spock! What the hell?” And I as a kid was like: “Spock! What the hell?”
I’d never seen him in such a state of dishevelment. It was just wrong. And it scared the hell out of me. (Spider-Man, David Bowie and Gene Simmons used to scare me too. I would grow to like Spider-Man and David Bowie, but the third guy still scares the shit out of me.) Then Kirk and Spock try to catch the waoul when it goes hiding in the ship and they succumb to the rage and start fighting each other. Kirk and Spock start growling like beasts and go at each other. They totally thrown down! I was like: “This is not good! Make it stop!” It all scared the hell out of me. The music was eerie.
Whenever Easter rolls around I think about this book. So I found one on EBay a few years ago and the only person I knew who had a turntable was this girl I was dating so I listened to the 7-inch 45-RPM record that came with it. And I was like: “Uh, this is dumb.”
The year I got this for Easter I think I also got a Shogun Warrior. Easter’s weird.
They finally arrived, guys! Instructions from the Gas Company on how to read my own meter! I’ve been looking them over and they’re really easy! You just have to follow these simple steps!
— Read only the dials marked “1,000 Per Rev.” (The small dials are for company testing purposes.)
—Read the dials from left to right.
—If the hand is between two numbers, always select the lower number.
—If a dial is right on the number, lift your face to the heavens, clasp your hands together, spin around five times (as decreed in the Seventh Book of Gorgathon), and recite the following curse: “O, Minions of Cthulhu [be certain to get the pronunciation right or you will be sacrificed], rend me here on this gassy rock so I may be one with your evil!” Keep yelling this until that one really hot neighbor who’s never paid attention to you finally calls the police.
—Since your meter measures the amount of gas used in cubic feet, it becomes important to know how to measure a cubic foot. First, construct a glass cube big enough to get into. (You’ll have to learn the centuries-old art of glass blowing to do this. You may not [repeat: not] purchase a glass cube.) Once you have perfectly blown your own glass cube (specifically designed to your body’s measurements, of course) climb into the cube with a tape measure. Determine the length of all sides of the cube. Next, enlist a friend to fill the cube with the bath water of the Babe of Antilles, the Enfant Child Of Mo’th. Once completely submerged, you must utter the following malediction: “O, Aether, God of Upper Air and Light, deliver this numerical data to the Lower Fiends of Edison so that they may be appeased in their thirst for my coin!” Then and only then should your friend release you from the cube. If the malediction is misspoken or if you drown, you must start over.
—By the end of your gas reading, if any of the dials are less than “1,000 Per Rev,” then you have seriously angered the Mof-D’ool and as punishment must promptly apply for a job at the gas company’s bill payment center.
Happy dial reading!
I love his writing, but I don’t care for this story at all. I can’t stand the plot. It’s so freakin’ boring. What’s the plot? Kinda can’t remember. An Indian woman becomes the chief of police in St. Louis and tries to take over the city. Is that it? I hope that’s accurate. I don’t know. There are seriously like thirty characters in this book and I’m only into, like, four of them. The rest, when they turn up, I’m always all: “Who are you again? And what race are you again?” I’ll be honest: I don’t know exactly what’s going on. Municipal intrigue and corporate mergers and private contractors and city leaders and real estate fluctuations and civic authority and judicial dishonesty and I don’t know what the hell is happening exactly. I’ll admit it. I know generally what’s going on, but not specifically. I think it might be time to stop reading books. I’m running out of room for them, first of all. And unless they’re about genocide they take forever for me to read. I can rip right through a book about an evil dictator and the swath of death he wreaks across a land and its people, but anything that’s made up or whatever and I’m all: “Huh? When does someone die?” I’ve been reading this one for like three months or something. That’s too long. And I still have a hundred pages to go. I like how he’s doing it, just not what he’s doing. Pages and pages of boardroom dialogue where I don’t know what the hell anyone is saying. Am I losing my mind? It’s written well, it’s just not doing anything interesting. Maybe I just don’t care about plot anymore. Maybe I like non-fiction more because there’s no pressure for it to pay off in the end. So when it doesn’t, it just reminds me of my own life and I can relate to it better. Because in real life, lots of stuff just don’t pay off, kid. Know’m sayn’?
I paid the bill. That huge gas bill. “We can send you a thing in the mail that teaches you how to read the meter yourself so when your next bill comes you can know if what’s on the bill is right or not.” Yeah. One of my passions in life is to read gas meters myself so I know when I am and when I’m not getting ripped off. (I’m also thinking of taking up glass blowing.) I’d like to be the guy who storms over to the bill payments center and goes, all nasally: “Uh, uh, excuse me. I actually took my own reading of the meter with my test tubes and my protractors and my sextet and I conclude that there are approximately seventeen point three-nine therms I’m being overcharged for.” And when I do that, I’ll be dressed in a smock with goggles on. And I’ll be wearing gloves. And there won’t be a woman within a mile of me.
The picture above shows where you stand to get in line at the gas bill payment center. I’d like to meet the first guy to come up with the idea of constructing a snake-shaped line for people to stand in rather than straight lines. I can just hear him pitching the idea to corporate:
“Actually, a solution to your overcrowding problem is the shape in which people are standing in line. If they’re straight lines, then there’s little room for new visitors to stand. But an S-shaped queue would facilitate more pockets of space to open up in such a way that more people have more room to stand. Do you see?”
And then a football jock comes in and punches him out.
When I’m in places like this, I follow the rules of line governance to a T, even if—and, let’s be honest, especially if—there’s no one there but me. I love walking the route of a completely unpopulated queue when it’s totally unnecessary. At the airport, I love sauntering down the double-backing lanes and ignoring the TSA agent as she waves me down through the shortcut route because there’s no one there. “You can just come down the middle of the aisle, honey,” she says. “There’s no one else here!” “Oh no!” I insist. “I will walk this entire route. I must!” This behavior should be considered more suspicious than a bomb threat.
(A kangaroo—BETH—inexplicably holds a baby hippo—STUART—in her pouch. There’s a moment of silence.)
STUART: You know…this doesn’t have to be weird.
BETH: Could I just have a minute to process what the hell is going on right now?
BETH: Thank you.
(Beth thinks about her situation. Stuart sits there. Pause.)
STUART: You know, as long as we don’t draw attention to ourselves, I don’t think anyone’s gonna notice this.
BETH: I can think of someone.
BETH: There’s a damn hippo in my crotch!
STUART: That’s not very nice.
BETH: No, I mean literally. You’re actually a hippo.
STUART: Oh, I see what you mean.
BETH: You do know you’re a hippo, right?
STUART: Yeah. I mean, I’m still getting used to it, but yeah.
BETH: I didn’t mean you were fat.
STUART: No, I know.
BETH: It’s just…I don’t have sex with hippos.
BETH: That’s not what I mean. I mean, I am a racist, but that’s not what I mean. I was pregnant for thirty-six days with a hippo? How did I not know that?
STUART: We’re sneaky.
BETH: Your dad certainly was.
STUART: Heh, heh, heh. Good ol’ dad.
BETH and STUART: Wonder where he is.
STUART: Well, I’m hungry.
BETH: What do you guys eat?
STUART: “You guys.” Racist.
BETH: Well, I don’t know if it’s different than what we eat.
BETH: Gimme a break, hippo. Hipporoo.
BETH: What do you like for lunch?
STUART: I’m into herbs.
BETH: Really? Me too.
STUART: All right!
BETH: Like grass?
BETH: Okay. Well, at least now we got something to do.
STUART: That’s most of living.
(They start to hop off together.)
BETH: We should be on that MTV show I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant With A Hippo Because I’m A Kangaroo.
Who broke into my home and burned fifty-nine therms without me knowing it? And April’s not even done yet! Sixteen therms in April 2013, nineteen in March 2014, and fifty-nine now in April? This bill is seventy-six dollars and eighty-one cents! American! That’s over three times what it normally is. That can’t be right. I have a lot of gas. I don’t use a lot of gas. Am I being charged for all the lone farting I do? If so, then I understand; in fact, fifty-nine therms would be a little low. I’ve farted seventy therms just since I started writing this post.
I’m trying to think how I burned fifty-nine therms in half a month. Are there more therms from a heater than an oven? How is a therm measured? Oh, here’s another question. What the hell is a therm? I could look it up, but where’s the fun in that? How much does a therm weigh? What does it look like? I want my thirty therms back. Maybe I should put up a poster around my neighborhood saying: “MISSING: Approximately Thirty Therms. Last Seen April 2014. They Answer To The Name Thermys. If Found, Please Approach Slowly Because They Scare Easy.” When I finally hire a cleaning lady, I’ll tell her: “Just clean the bathroom, bedroom, living room, kitchen and, I swear to God, if I catch you stealing any of my therms, I will have the cops here so fast!”
I know I didn’t use my heater that much this month. And the only thing I really cook is oatmeal. I’m hardly using my stove. I almost burned down some friends’ apartment one time from leaving their stove on and ever since I have to say the word “stove” whenever I turn one off. Like, I have to hear myself say it so I’ll remember later that I turned it off. And I know I didn’t eat more oatmeal than usual so far this month. That therm graph might as well be a chart for how much oatmeal I eat. But April is wrong! I’m tellin’ ya! Some heat miser broke into my place and burned thirty therms while I was asleep. When I go to bed, I don’t leave the heater on when it’s cold. I’m strictly a blanket-for-warmth kind of guy. I recently got a new bed. They’re not charging me for that, are they?
My gas bill is the only bill I pay in person. Because it’s nice to lower your glasses, make eye contact with someone and go: “Hey. Thanks for the gas.”
People love television. It’s my own fault for being on Facebook, but I can’t go three spins of my mouse wheel (that’s what I call the dial on my mouse: my mouse wheel) without reading some post about how much someone absolutely adores Breaking Bad. Or Mad Men. Or Game Of Thrones. Or Downton Abby. Or Girls. And they’re not just brief, cheering, one-liner shout-outs (or, as I like to call them, out-shouts). I’m talking gushingly precious, fawningly adulatory, paragraphs-long love letters addressed not to people, but to television shows. I saw one the other day by a girl that basically went like this:
“The inevitable conclusion of Mad Men has been filling my days with wild swings of conflicting emotions. One moment I’m elated that I’ve had the chance to simply live in a world where that show not only exists but can exist, the next I’m lamenting the passing of what absolutely feels like a dear friend. One moment I’m reveling in the blissful satisfaction of a story well-told, the next I’m roiling from the oncoming void of emptiness once the series concludes. One moment I’m chomping at the bit to know the fate of all these characters that don’t feel like characters anymore because they’re just too real now, the next I’m bitterly lamenting their inexorable absence from my life. The show Mad Men completes me—has been completing me—for the many seasons it’s been lovingly displayed on my screen and I need to let it know how important, vital and indubitably necessary it’s been in my life, which is soon to be slightly less important, vital and necessary once this wonderfully-wrought program is gone. Mad Men, you will always be mine. I will never forget you. You will always be here with me in some way, inspiring me to search for more like you, though I know there are none like you.”
And I was like: “Damn. I hope you say nice things like that to your boyfriend.”
And maybe she does. Maybe all people who adore television also communicate comparable feelings to their significants. I certainly hope so. Imagine: You’re going out with a girl who loves television so much that she posts a love letter on Facebook addressed to a television series that’s ending. You read it. After reading it, the following thought occurs to you: “Wow. She’s never said anything like that to me. She’s never written me a love letter. I mean, yeah she says ‘I love you’ to me and I say it back to her and we’ve been together for about a year now and things are pretty good, but she has never expressed anything remotely close to what she just expressed to a fuckin’ television show to me. Just how much does my girlfriend love me?”
One of the reasons I don’t have relationships is because I’m not looking forward to having a girlfriend who loves television more than she loves me.
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That’s always a great text to get from a woman. “Can we keep whatever it is we’re doing on the down-low?” It’s so definitive and brave! And communicated via text! This girl should get a job reading scripts for movie studios. Ambiguous rejection is what that business is all about!
(“Matt, I just don’t think whatever it is we’re doing is working out.” That’s another one I got from someone else. Whatever It Is We’re Doing. I love that. Sounds like some horrible Miranda July movie. [I’m well aware the term “horrible Miranda July movie” is redundant.])
I can’t remember if she spelled it “downlow” or “down-low,” which is a rather important distinction. “Down-low” suggests discretion. “Downlow” suggests dirty and dishonest. I wish she had meant the latter. “Can we keep whatever it is we’re doing on the dirty and dishonest?” To which I would’ve immediately responded: “Thought we already were!” Then I would’ve booked it to K-Mart to pick up some 12 gauges and gas up the car for a one-way trip to Reno.
“There’s an ex-boyfriend who’s making my life crazy both on line and off and—.” I don’t remember the rest of what she typed because it was at that point I knew I was never going to see her again. That ex-boyfriend was still very much a boyfriend. (You can usually tell how she feels about a former beau from the heart emoticons she still puts around the word “ex-boyfriend.” The deadest of giveaways.) It was too bad. I liked her. She made me laugh. We made us laugh. Once a week for two weeks. That kind of commitment should be absolutely kept on the down-low.
Here’s the good news: I don’t and can’t get mad at stuff like this anymore. That really is the good news! I would be a hypocrite and a creep to get mad at a girl for just wanting to disappear like that. Of course she doesn’t want to come over anymore. She’s seen my bathroom and my collection of books about serial killers and genocide. And it’s the bathroom that’s more violent. Hell, if there were something that should be kept on the down-low, you’d think it’d be all the books about killers I have. I’m the one who should’ve asked her to be discreet. “Can we keep all the true crime books I have in my dusty one bedroom apartment on the down-low? Especially the ones I wrote myself? In crayon?”
Here’s some more good news: If it happens again (and by “if” I mean “when”), if a girl asks me: “Can we keep whatever it is we’re doing on the down-low?”, I am going to immediately answer with this:
Because if by “downlow” she means “not hanging out anymore,” then yes! We can definitely keep this on the permanent down-low!
CASTING DIRECTOR: Which spot are you here for?
ME: I don’t remember.
C.D.: Did you read the material posted out front?
ME: That’s hilarious. You a comic?
C.D.: It outlines what you’re gonna do.
ME: Does it?
C.D.: Did you read it?
ME: What do you want? Blood? You want me to slice my neck right here and bleed out? I’d honestly rather do that than audition for this commercial.
C.D.: Just take a couple minutes to read the outline.
ME: Can you just turn the camera on and record me driving a letter opener into my neck? I’d like that to be my audition. But don’t worry: Just before I bleed out, I promise to do an end slate so the people watching will know what my name is.
C.D.: You don’t want to do that.
ME: Oh, yes I do. Yes, I do want to do that.
C.D.: You want to kill yourself?
ME: In the grand scheme of things? No. I don’t. But I’d be willing to make an exception if I could do it as a commercial audition.
C.D.: Just read the outline.
ME: It’d be great if the outline were exactly what I’ve been describing. “We’re looking for an actor willing to stab himself in the neck with a letter opener.”
C.D.; How would you get the job then?
C.D.: How would you get booked for the job if you were dead?
ME: You’re saying ad companies would be less inclined to hire someone if they were dead? Do you know how much easier it is to dick a guy out of the money he’s owed when he’s dead? Way easier.
C.D.: I don’t think you’ve thought this through completely.
ME: (Pause) You hear that pause? That little moment of silence there?
ME: That was me thinking it through completely. I’m ready to do this. You got an oil pan or something else I can bleed onto?
C.D.: You’re not doing that.
ME: You don’t have to film it if you don’t want, but can I still do it?
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First commercial I ever did was K-Mart in 1993 and I sucked. I was so stiff. “You’re really stiff,” the director, a guy named John Hancock, said. The actress I was in the spot with was named Tatiana. She took classes. “Just talk like we’re in a class.” I didn’t know what she meant. I didn’t care. Maybe she meant I should take a class. It was really apparent whatever they saw in me at the callback they weren’t getting on set. And I was in New Jersey. That made me feel sad too. I showed up at the pick-up place in Manhattan and was immediately asked to start lifting boxes and bring them up two flights of stairs. After a while I noticed we weren’t shuttling anywhere and I go: ‘What’re we waiting for?” and the guy who just asked me to lift boxes goes: “I’m waiting for Matthew Champagne to show up. He’s talent.” “I’m Matthew Champagne,” I said. “Oh shit,” he said. “Get in the van.” I think later he said: “You’re talent. Why would you lift boxes like that?” “Because you told me to,” I said. “Is this your first commercial?” he asked. “Yeah,” I said. I was up so early in the morning the prostitutes were just going home. “Hey, baby! You cute!” They were really nice. We finally got to New Jersey and I had to say things like “Bennington” and “relaxed fit” and “I see yours come with a belt.” “You’re a little stiff,” the director said. Now whenever anyone says that to me, and people still do say that to me, I just go: “Yup. That’s what I do.” To break the monotony, the director at one point yelled: “Bunny take!” and made everyone in the spot do it like bunnies: hands up by their ears and hopping around. Even the extras. Especially the extras. Bunny-hopping extras in the background were the funniest thing in this thing. They did not air that take. Months later I watched the spot and went: “Man, I’m awful.” I mumbled. I came off like a jerk. I wasn’t proud of myself. I never worked for K-Mart again.
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