Currently disappointed with the opposite sex

In conversation at the office a few days ago:

Me: Good morning, oh [girl’s name], my valkyrie of the shipping industry!
Girl: What’s a valkyrie?
Me: Err… Some girls from Norse mythology? Would hang around with Odin?
Girl: What?
Me: Took the spirit of dead warriors up to Val… to some palace?
Girl: Why are you calling me that?
Me: You know, you are taking all the fun out of good morning
Girl: Why can’t you just say “good morning” like a regular person?
Me: Why can’t I just say my name backwards and disappear into the fifth dimension for 90 days?
Girl: What?
Me: kltpzyxM...


What have we talked about nibbling at free hot dogs at the pretzel stand by the escalator, chum?

“What have we talked about nibbling free hot dogs at the pretzel stand by the escalator, chum?” I’m asking myself as I walk by the skinny, homely girl in braids holding up the almost-emptied tray at thin air, apparently, on my way to the staircases towards ground level, and eventually off the mall. I’m not using the escalators themselves for reasons that will become clearer later on, and despite not sampling from anything atop the girl’s tray I make a point to ask her about the flavor of the day; today’s free pretzel is something just a tad inventive, deemed a “Neapolitan hot-dog”, she tells me: Basically a frankfurter wrapped inside some pretzel dough with sprinkled oregano on top, then chopped into tiny bits for the passers-by to sample from, and maybe even attract them back to the mothership, a nearby pretzel stand.
I remember Batman telling his second Robin (Jason Todd) once not to have hot-dogs due to some harmful nitrate content, etc, something very Batman-like such as that, and this is pretty much the reason for not sampling from the braided girl’s tray this evening. No, scratch that: I’ve been severely controlling my food intake for the past two or three weeks.

The Trials of Shazam is a 12-issue limited series currently published by DC Comics. It’s written by Judd Winnick who I think once starred on MTV’s Real World or something like that, and is even mentioned on one of Dave Egger’s books. So Shazam in the title is obviously referring to Captain Marvel: This kid Billy Batson was granted the attributes of five elders and gods from legend by some old Egyptian wizard back in the ‘40s and by uttering the wizard’s name (Shazam) is changed into the World’s Mightiest Mortal- Captain Marvel- comicdom’s only superhero with Superman-level superpowers.
So this present series takes the character under a new spin, as Marvel’s sidekick Captain Marvel Junior (alter ego: Freddy Freeman) finds himself de-powered and must endure a “trial” of some sort: He must prove himself worthy of the powers of each god: So first he goes for the wisdom of Solomon, then for the strength of Hercules, then the stamina of Atlas, the power of Zeus, the courage of Achilles and the speed of Mercury (got the acronym there, buddy? S-H-A-Z-A-M!), and so on, a legendary figure at a time.

And this, non sequiturs notwithstanding, is exactly what I’ve been doing myself: All those hours in front of the TV, all that mileage in and out of bookstores, the fortune squandered away on comic books, all those surely must amount to something, to anything, and that anything is Wisdom. Or least some pretty nifty level of general knowledge about stuff in, well, in general. Bottom line should figure there around knowing stuff like the difference between the Caduceus and the Rod of Asclepius. That kinda stuff.
So I was thinking of Freddy Freeman and wondering, why the hell stop at wisdom anyway?

So heck, yeah now that the frequent trips for the office have ended I have enough spare time to resume jogging and with the dumbbells and the abs-crunchers and the works, for like, two or three weeks now. I’m sore all over!
Even though the beer belly still reigns supreme- this is a most resilient nemesis to contend with, let me tell you that much!- I have begun losing some weight already, I think my waistline’s starting to seem less-horrendous by now. And hey what do you know, there’s even a hint of muscle punching through the fat!
So here’s how it’s done: hiking back home on foot, jogging whenever I can, for an hour or so, then half an hour with the weights and co., five days a week. Also, no sweets or fried food of any kind. And tons of vegetables and low-fat yogurt as well.

Since the wisdom of Solomon is pretty much a given these days, and all it takes is black coffee for the speed of Mercury, my next target (Shazam-wise) is both the strength of Hercules and the stamina of Atlas… ETA should figure there about May, possibly June at the latest, providing I can keep up with this routine. Then I’ll figure out about the courage of Achilles and the power of Zeus later on.
But I’ll tell you this right now: Baby, I’m HOOKED on this stuff like Hourman on Miraclo! I’m telling you, I can’t wait for the clock to strike 6pm every weekday so I can scram the hell out of the office and take it to the streets!

Best thing I’ve done in a long time, period.


G**** reads from the script

G**** reads from the script and she’s sort of waiting to cue herself in as I step onto the office chair I’ve pulled to my bedroom and am using it to crawl up the wardrobe to pick up some CDs.
There have been actress with more talent, more flare, maybe even more panache than G**** see, and surprisingly enough it isn’t about beauty either (even though G**** has always ranked way up high in that department). She, though, manages her timing like no other living being on Earth.

I go for an old Spin Doctors CD, A Pocket Full of Kryptonite, and all the memories it brings from High School and that crazy year immediately afterwards. The first song is Jimmy Olsen’s Blues and tells of Jimmy Olsen’s infatuation with Lois Lane and his jealousy of Superman, that he can’t even compete with the Man of Steel, etc, just I was never really a match for the guy who taught us History back in ’97 or ’98, and G****.
It makes me smile.

G****, meanwhile, is back at her place studying the screenplay and my picking up that CD is her cue- it reads, “ENTER: G****” in those size-12 Courier font, Letter-sized sheets that are the standard both for Hollywood and the Norns- So she goes for the phone, conjures up a number from her phone book, and asks if I’m up for some Japanese food on Saturday night; wants to introduce me her fiancé before the wedding next September.


1995-2000: The years Batman went crimefighting without his underwear

Every time somebody badmouths comics- superhero comics, that is- the critique is often the same: “But they wear their underwear over their pants!”

Now consider Batman: As strange as it might sound Batman did indeed Go Commando for approx. five years, from 1995 to 2000. In between those years, Batman did not sport his traditional black/blue shorts over his pants.
How’s that for statistics? Also a pretty useful common-knowledge bit to pick up girls at parties.

Starting with the Feb.95 edition of Batman (#515), the character changed his uniform to a darker look: The light grays became very dark, and the blues were shifted all the way to black. He lost the shorts as well. (They also added scalloped edges to his boots, like his gloves, but that was abandoned that very month in Robin #14).

Now up to the March 2000 issue of Detective Comics (#742) Batman’s uniform stayed pretty much the same. The outlook was reinforced through DC Comics’ licensing department and went on to become t-shirts, bath towels, toy trains and the works. That was also the uniform Batman used during his adventures with writer Grant Morrison’s JLA monthly book.
1999, however saw one first change to Batman’s suit that would come together in the months to come: During the No Man’s Land storyline, when Gotham City was abandoned by the Federal government after an earthquake, etc, Batman went back to his roots (in retroactive continuity anyway) and adopted a poach-lined leather belt in lieu of the traditional yellow one with the capsules.
Once 2000 hit and NML ended, Batman went all the way to a more classic look: He ditched the Count Dracula suit from ’95-’00 and went back to the pitch-black over light-gray suit, poach-lined belt, no yellow oval on chest emblem and what is more- the shorts were worn once again over his pants!
That version of the suit, at least on a conceptual if not de facto level, is the original one from ’39-’64.

1964 was, of course, the year Julius Schwartz became Batman’s editor and had the now-legendary yellow oval added to the hero’s chest emblem. It was also the year DC upped the ante on the Dark Knight and started giving art credits to the real artists whom up until that point merely ghosted for Bob Kane. The Batman of that period was known as the “New Look” Batman because of those changes.
But that is a story for another bat-post…


Apropos of Count Dracula, how’s this for the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen anyway?

Back when they were younger, Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde both competed for the hand of the same woman into marriage. The Victorian one-hit-wonder-to-be eventually bested the fin-de-siècle sod*mite and took the girl home much to, well, nobody’s chagrin I suppose.

True story.


More disturbing things to tell other people

When I was a kid I was scared to sh*t out of the music video to Bela Lugosi is dead from Bauhaus.
I mean Jesus Christ, the way they went all like repeating the chorus like a mantra… “Bela Lugosi is dead… Bela Lugosi is dead… Bela Lugosi is dead”.

…And that, my friend, is why I’m afraid of Count Dracula to this day.


Long distance epilogue

To be perfectly, crystal-clear honest with you I guess the thing I’ll miss the most in my travels for the last semester is billing my laundry to the office, because the whole rest of it is just…

Well those were pretty amazing six months anyhow, you know…?


Long distance, pt. X

This one ends sort of before it actually does because come the next week Amazo’s all out of absorption cells and to be quite frank with you I sort of miss my apartment anyway and also watching Sinead O’Connor on DVD, I really do. Besides, the Pet Shop Boys are comin’ to town in March and I so gotta be there & not pass it up like I did with New Order last November because I was away due to work… and the Pet Shop Boys are one of my all-time favorite bands ever!!
Also, the ice-cream parlor just by the Subway next to the hotel here is not really helping with my losing weight anyway…

This is my last trip for the office for a time, meaning that after six months of playing Hop Harrigan I’m pretty much office-bound as of now and it, well, sucks big time.
But hell, I’ve lived. And who knows, it certainly beckons: Tomorrow beckons, the future beckons and there’s this whole, big, wonderful world out there and way too many soul-less Corporations looking for an eternally-single, soul-less guy like myself to just roam around and get in trouble on behalf of the Board.
I already did my own country and it’s high time to upgrade the operation.

I get on an airplane on a Wednesday morning, right there at the break of dawn. S**** the leitmotif-man is not there this time, though.
Endgame, really.


Long distance, pt. IX

I zero out my weekend even before it starts, however, and am left in bed all alone and buck naked on a Saturday morning in a hotel room with no one to call and nothing to do but roam all across town for two days.
I cut one of my toes on the rocks behind the lighthouse by the beach at noon. Doesn’t hurt too much.
The sun is downright unbelievable and there’s not one cloud up in the sky.

I take a deep breath and open my arms wide. It just feels so f*cking good to be alive here… basking under the sun… like this… right now…

Whoa, man…


Long distance, pt.VIII

There’s this old Justice League antagonist from back in the early ‘60s and he was called Amazo the Amazing Android. The thing that made Amazo absolutely fascinating was that he had these super-absorption cells that would enable him to actually mimic the powers of every Leaguer: The Flash’s speed, Green Lantern’s wish-ring, Superman’s invulnerability and so on, and so forth.
As silly as it sounds Amazo’s promise was one of utter and absolute freedom for anyone willing to hear his message: Being able to become anyone, being able to survive anywhere, to blend in, to fit in, to belong somewhere or to someone for the fleetest of the stories.

…This is mine:

Despite her kid brother playing guardian angel on steroids it still leaves me room to maneuver when she asks about the Thirty-Seven and I tell her I did it mostly to meet girls. She obviously doesn’t buy it but smiles anyway when I say I should’ve gone with a story about adopting orphans from war-torn African countries instead. It’s then & there I realize her eyes are of the most beautiful green.
We’re standing in the middle of the crowd, see, waiting for the second band to come onstage and then she bows down and says, Check this out man. She pulls her blond hair off the back of her head, there’s this small tattoo of a dog on her neck.
She looks up, smiles again, and this is the part I sort of forgot to tell you about how Amazo would also absorb the weaknesses of the Justice League. The music here is just terrible but what the hey, now, we’re all ballplaying in one or another… And in Green Lantern’s case Amazo was made absolutely vulnerable to yellow and this is me too with my thing with blondes, anyhow…

The following evening this other girl takes me out to dinner, to try the local cuisine, and she’s also got some pretty eyes, also green, but this one’s a brunette and from when we’re talking she says she almost got married to this guy once, then lets out she’s actually twenty and I’m thinking, Nope, too young. Bail out.
The local cuisine tastes… interesting, though, and I manage to survive the crabs and the oysters and god forbid, the a**** without having any bowel complications the next morning. “You sure can take it, man”, she says afterwards.
“I’ve got a tenth-level Mohs-scale inner stomach lining,” I say. She has absolutely no idea of what I’m talking but then asks me about the Thirty-Seven and what do you know, there just could be the ball rolling once more… in spite of myself, however.


Long distance, pt. VII

There’s no room to wander except down the narrow slope cornered by old three-story, late-nineteen century tenements in ruins so I make the call to go back before the sun sets for good.
The view from over here, overlooking the bay past the carpet of small houses sprawling seawards, is nothing short of amazing. It goes straight on past the big cargo ships anchored down and waiting for mooring, up until where the oil tankers meet with the horizon and they all merge against the crawling backdrop of night rising from beneath the waves.
One lonely cool, dry gust of autumn wind blows in- it lasts but a second, it really does, before the heat and the humidity settle in again- Here’s Atlantic Ocean yonder preparing to bid goodbye to the summer.

I stood back in wonder a couple of months ago when P**** casually mentioned he’d never really realized up until that moment the sun never set over our ocean as it did back on his shorelines down south and to the west.
Sunsets over the Pacific Ocean… I strongly believe that’s the real reason all true good dreams end up in California anyway: Because everybody gets to go west for the gold at least once in a lifetime.

I shake the dust off my sneakers and check the phone for the time. There’s no avoiding from smiling at the irony that there’s no daylight savings time in the land of eternal summer: The rest of the free-world rides an hour ahead, which probably means we have one hour to save the world if push comes to shove. Luckily it doesn’t.
The faux-coconut shavings are still clogging the straw but I pretend I don’t mind and gulp down all the milk-shake in my hand anyway.


Long distance, pt. VI

I’m on the last leg of my journey, the place this time is distant S**** far to the mythical Northeast, just ten days shy from getting back home for good and staying there for a change, and the current spiritual revelation has to do with McDonald’s wanting me to believe the snowflake-white plastic bits buoying through the chocolate syrup and clogging the straw I’m drinking the milk-shake with, are actually coconut shavings. Jesus Christ. I pretend I don’t mind and drink it all up anyway.

The sun is setting down, see, and for the oddest of reasons I’ve found myself wandering through some bad part of town, only half-heartedly looking for the way back to the hotel. Like, finding the McDonald’s here was a feat most Herculean yet I pulled through. I get a little worried I’m not finding anywhere to buy a bottle of water for the night but the feeling elapses after a split-second or two.
This is the part in which, were this post a half-decent cliché, we’d cue in Green Day’s Good Riddance on the soundtrack: This isn’t, though, because there’s this little shabby bar just around the corner and I can see from the opposite side of the street there’s bottled water in the refrigerator with the Cokes and the Fantas; another quest bites the dust.

Despite of my being somewhat prone to lying I also happen to come by the truth on occasion. This is one of such moments:
One would think that by the time we’d all reached twenty-seven we’d have outgrown this “coming of age” shebang that, to be perfectly honest with you, adds up to zero anyhow, in any way, and gone on to live the rest of it as men.
I remember, however, Wendy sewing Peter Pan’s shadow on his feet but this from the Disney movie and not from the book- Yet every time I quote from that “Second star to the right and straight on 'til morning” bit I’m actually quoting from Captain Kirk in Star Trek VI.


Long distance, pt. V

Cut back to the airplane scene with S**** (which happens a week after the phone conversation with G**** at the V**** hotel room, in case you haven’t realized).

The turbulence grows stronger and the cabin lights are killed. Basking beneath his own reading lights, S**** the leitmotif-man scratches his beard for a second, goes for a peanut or three and resumes with his Sudoku.
The protagonist gets tired from writing all this by hand, eventually. He flicks his pen once, twice then bows down to the black backpack tucked between his legs, puts his notebook away and then looks for some chewing gum.


Long distance, pt. IV

So G**** eventually phones in just like I said she would, even despite we haven’t talked to each other in a couple of years. This is her story as well as it is yours.
The conversation, providing you’re okay with reading the Cliff’s Notes for John Milton instead of going head-on into Paradise Lost, goes like this:

“I got engaged and will marry within the year,” says G**** shortly after the hellos and how-do-you-dos.
“Well give my regards to that E**** kid,” I say kind of nonchalantly.
“Oh come on, man, G****,” I blurt out. “Not him too!”
“It’s sorta like, it’s a different guy,” she says. “We met a couple of years ago.”
“What about you?,” asks G**** and in G****-talk it usually translates as whether I’m seeing someone or not.
“Same old, same old. I’m old-school all the way, babe,” I reply and in my talk it means I’m all for changing the subject because I’m so not going there with G****, of all people. Then I cue myself right in and tell her of the tattoo, of the apartment, also about the office and the day I went to do this presentation to my boss last year and I forgot I had a Lex Luthor wallpaper up on my desktop.
“Oh. Wow.” (I can say she’s impressed and it makes me feel a little prouder for myself than I actually should, in a sort of 1980s yuppie-esque kind-of way).
“Anyway. You still looking hot?”
“My fiancée thinks so, thanks for asking.” she laughs a little. “So are you coming to the wedding or not?”
“Dude, the day you enter that church’s gonna be the saddest day of my life.”
“Don’t tempt me, boy” she says in that very sexy manner all too particular to her. It almost gets me going just as it used to all those years ago.
“I’m still in love with you, man…”
“No you aren’t, you idiot. You never were!,” she throws it right back at me with a smile on her lips. Feels good to be fencing with her again after all this time.

I end up getting to write her address down on a piece of paper only there’s not really any paper in sight at the hotel so I tear a page off one of those omnipresent hotel room Holy Bibles and, fitting enough, it’s the last page from the Apocalypse and God is saying unto Man that, I’m the Alpha and the Omega and etc.
This thing between G**** and I has always been that Wagnerian anyway, if not a little bit more platonic than it should, at least in the end.


Long distance, pt.III

You remember S****, right? The cranky old Palestinian dude who taught us about Incoterms and such back in College? Okay, now I’m gonna ask you for a little suspension of your belief: The following story is just as half-true as it sounds…

Ever since I started with this crazy series of travels for the office half a year ago, every time I sit in an airplane a guy looking like S**** sits right next to me. He always says Hi, and he always passes on his ham & cheese sandwich for a complimentary bag of peanuts. Sometimes he brings on the full family with him and sometimes he’s all by himself. We seldom talk.
As I write these very lines the S****-lookalike on this particular flight has just turned my reading lights on, when he realized I kept on scribbling even past when the cabin lights were dimmed for the takeoff.
“Thanks man,” I said. He just smiled.
Now, S****’s classes back in College- and yes, I’m painfully all-too aware of your own biased opinions of them- they were the only ones I could ever bear watching. Remember how he’d talk of ‘em cargo ships and the many different kinds of containers and etc? And then a few years later, and purely by chance, I got a job working in one of those very companies he’d often mention…?

…With his doppelganger flying with me, week in and week out, as they send me to kickstart some project in each and every one of our local offices…?
S**** the leitmotif-man. That’s how I came to call him in my dreams.


Long distance, pt.II

I usually get a kick out of those stories in which there’s a leap in time for the ending in lieu of ‘em “And they lived happily ever after”-isms, you know, when the plot is fast-forwarded either months, years or decades into the future and both the characters and the readers are allowed a sudden, definitive change of perspective, a fresh point of view in everything that’s passed before. Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence employs such a device to a wonderful effect at the ending and so does Jack Kerouac’s Maggie Cassidy (a rather obscure book of Jack’s that ranks among my favorite novels of all-time). Roy Thomas too reportedly planned to use it in the last chapter of his Kree-Skrull War saga back in the ‘60s but never got around to it because artist Neal Adams was suddenly off the Avengers monthly comic book where the story was taking place.

…Have you ever seen heavy rain pouring against an airplane’s wings as it soars in high speed past the clouds late at night?

I wish I could go full circle with you on this one and tell you this flight was bound way further up North at long last- bound to you, no less- but that’s not what Wharton did, in the end, and that’s not what Jack did either (as for Marvel’s Krees and the Skrulls and their interplanetary war, well, you know I’m mostly a DC kid these days).
So hey as far as you & I are concerned the zeitgeist itself is somewhere else entirely, man.

It is said wisdom comes with age and I for one am inclined to agree. There’s so much more to be told regarding being here in 2007 yet in some very specific, limited sort of way I wish it were 2057 right now, just off the bat, just so I could look back at 2000 or 2007 with a different set of eyes.

What will I think of life in 50 years hence? What will I think of you?
…I wonder just what did Superman think of Lyla Lerrol after all, in the end, back in the day…


Long distance, pt.I

Turning 27 on a hotel room balcony overlooking a marina just off the beach under the sunset, no shirt on and some fine, mild rain coming down. The city is V**** and I think I’ve been here before, once, as a kid with my grandmother.
I go for the calendar on the lower right portion of the task bar- the Notebook warms up my thighs, my feet rest over the balcony’s glass ledge- just to make sure it’s indeed 2007. And it is. I put the computer away, close my eyes, savor the rain.

Regardless of having lost F****, regardless of having lost you and… heck, even regardless having lost someone like G**** (who’s still the one to call on my birthdays and will do so again in a couple of hours, I’m certain, to tell me she’s now engaged to some guy)… I still can’t believe I’ve actually come this far: I remember telling you I was dropping out of College some six or seven years back; we were crossing the street from that place I shared with some friends from back in High School and you had just called me “Such a smart boy” (in English, no less) for reading Gore Vidal’s The Golden Age, just because. Then you told me not to, because first and foremost you were not dropping out yourself and you had at least as much reason as I did for wanting to pull off the plug.

“We’re halfway through anyway,” you said.