Going Forward

It has become apparent to me that I cannot blog five days a week and dedicate the necessary time to both my job and my alcoholism. Poison Spur will therefore be updated Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays from now on.

This new schedule is effective immediately and will continue until I am either unemployed or someone does an intervention on me.

Vision Thing

If you are over 40 as I am, you have begun to feel the effects of Father Time slowly bitch slapping you to death. I will probably make it beyond my allotted three score and ten if my vices don’t kill me first. Most people do these days. Some decline is to be expected though. As far as Mother Nature is concerned, my body is well past its warranty.

I’ve been nearsighted since I was in my late twenties and it is gradually getting worse. Not James Thurber worse, but worse nonetheless. Uncorrected, I used to have trouble reading street signs at night. Now I can barely make out that there is any writing on them, even in the middle of the day.

Farsightedness has become an increasing problem, which is to be expected as one gets older. I had hoped that my nearsightedness and farsightedness would cancel each other out, leaving me an eagle-eyed old goat. No such luck.

Without my glasses, anything beyond a distance of two feet is a blur. With the glasses on, the same holds true for objects less than three feet. As an empiricst, I must therefore conclude that anything between two and three feet of me does not actually exist. It is an extra-dimensional zone filled with vaguely humanoid blobs spouting mindless prattle and asking me what I’m staring at. I wish I could answer them, I really do.

Getting fitted with bifocals would solve this problem but I’m not about to do that. I feel old enough already.

Peace of the Rock

After a very ugly day at work, I walked to the Catrain station and took a cab to the Argus. Once I ordered my first drink, my mood improved. By the time my third or fourth whiskey arrived, I expected to be positively bursting with glee.

That didn’t happen. After a few sips (or gulps, if you want to get technical about it) of my Jameson’s, the bartender grinned at me and shoved a postcard under my nose. It read:

Vote YES on Proposition C, February 5, 2008
By Converting Alcatraz Island, a place of pain and suffering, into a “Jewel Of Light”,
We will activate powerful forces for cooperation, reconciliation, and healing…

Majestic in its simplicity, revolutionary as a political metaphor, the Global Peace Center
proclaims a global renaissance! A new epoch! A time of enduring peace for all humanity.

“So what do you think?” she asked.

“Jesus creeping shit.”

I plan on voting in the upcoming election but to be honest, I’ve thought most about choosing the presidential candidate who will do the least damage in the oval office. I hadn’t considered the propositions on the ballot, and certainly didn’t think there would be one calling for my city’s beloved Alcatraz to be transformed into a new-age Epcot. What is the matter with these people?

Historical monuments serve a purpose. They are reminders of the events that got us to where we are today. Some are not very pleasant places, nor should they be. Innocuous attractions like “George Washington Slept Here” or “Bill Clinton Slept with Her” can only teach you so much. America has its grim recesses and to truly appreciate one of them, you sometimes need to be in its physical presence.

“These referendums piss me off,” said a woman at the bar I showed the postcard to. “All some millionaire has to do is pay enough people to put their names on a peitition and he buys a spot on the ballot.”

So that’s it. Some crystal-frotting parvenu wants to bulldoze Alcatraz so he can stare out the window of Marina condo without the island’s decaying old buildings offending his sensibilities.

“Screw the bastards,” I said.

“We need to get rid of initiatives entirely,” she said.

“That’s easy for me,” I said. “I have no initiative. Just ask my employers.”

Inside the Blogger’s Studio

I stare at the blank page with a whiskey in my right hand. In my left is a pen, chewed at the end and twirled between my fingers like a baton. The words will come, most of them after my second drink.

Tomorrow morning when the booze has worn off, I’ll clean up what I had written and post it to the Spur. My drunken musings are usually salvageable. It is easier to sober up prose than a person.

If there’s a how-to guide on blogging, and I’m sure there is, I’m sure that my methods would fall squarely in the “Things To Avoid” section. That said, my way of going about things works for me but if I were to write a tutorial of my own, it would come with the disclaimer, “Don’t try this at home.”

Getting the words on paper can be a challenge but it is only part of the battle. Coming up with fresh topics isn’t easy. In real life, I often repeat jokes I’ve told in the past, hoping whoever is listening is too stoned to remember. With the blog, I don’t have that luxury. Every puerile quip is part of the public record.

If Poison spur were focused on a particular area or followed current events, I wouldn’t have this problem. If I blogged about Irritable Bowel Syndrome, my readers would be itching to read anything I had to say on the topic. If I pursued a course of news punditry, I could weigh in on the Christmas maulings at the SF Zoo, coining the term “Tigergate” and being proud of myself for having done so.

Instead, I have to plumb the depths of my imagination. Ideas that seem grand when I’m three sheets to the wind are about as appealing as my hangover the next morning. For example, the other night I came up with the notion of writing a piece of LBJ strap-on erotica called, “Ladybird’s Johnson.” It will never be written and that is probably just as well. Anyone old enough to get the joke is probably too mature to appreciate it.

I manage to muddle through despite asking myself at times why I even bother. A quick look at my web stats is a grim reminder that hardly anybody reads my blog. Close friends, a few passersby, the occasional stalker, that’s about it. Where are the throngs of admirers hanging on to my every word? Where are the crates of Jameson’s being delivered to my doorstep, courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts?

Fortunately, my bouts of self pity are brief. Do you know why I keep at it? It’s fun. I like to get a laugh out of people and I’m successful in that endeavor at least some of the time. Dear readers, no matter how many or few of you there happen to be, you are my inspiration. Gatsby had Daisy Buchanan. Hinckley had Jodie Foster. I have you, and I thank you for that.

Lezzer of Two Evils

The Evil Friendship

By Vin Packer

192 pp.

© 1958

Publisher: Fawcett Publications, Inc.

Series: Gold Medal Books s797

In 1954, two teenage girls in New Zealand murdered the mother of one of them. Peter Jackson made a 1994 movie called Heavenly Creatures about the crime and the relationship between the two girls. I never saw the film but have it on good authority it was a creditable piece of cinema despite its lack of hot lesbian scenes.

However, the story provided entertainment fodder long before the movie premiered. In 1958, Vin Packer (one of the many pseudonyms of lesbian-pulp pioneer Marijane Meaker) published The Evil Friendship. The book is inspired by, rather than based on, the actual events. The murderesses in the novel have been renamed Mary Drew Edlin and Martha Kent, and the story takes place in the south of England instead of new Zealand.

The two meet and form a clandestine relationship relationship in that hotbed of rugmunchery and denial, a private girl’s school. Bored with other students and school traditions, they retreat into a private world of make-believe. The fairy tales they concoct in their conversations and diaries create a catalyst for their budding romance.

As one can imagine, sapphic trysts are frowned upon by both the school and their parents, and the secret does not remain a secret for long. Alpha butch Evelyn Rush was formerly involved with the gym teacher Miss Nicky, a mustachioed dieseler with thunder thighs. Now has her she sights set on Martha. who wants nothing to do with her. Rush, spurned and spiteful, rats her out to the administrators.

The notification from the school puts a strain on the family life of the two girls, which was never perfect to begin with. Mary Drew’s mother insists that her daughter see a psychiatrist. Her father is against the idea, saying, “they sit on their behinds and come out telling everyone they’re crazy! What if I told everyone their teeth were rotten!” Coming from a dentist in England, his argument doesn’t work so well and Mary Drew is sent to the shrink.

Martha’s home life provides its own set of challenges. Neither parent is terribly upset. The father is too absent-minded a professor to deal with such mundane issues as child rearing and the mother’s attentions are distracted by an extramarital affair with an american houseguest. Matters get complicated when she decides to divorce her husband, move to America with the man, and take Martha with her.

What are our two young lesbian lovers to do? Martha wants Mary Drew to come with her but there are the obstacles of money and parental consent. To solve the first problem, they engage in a little blackmail and theft. The total haul doesn’t seem enough to cover expenses, but the girls have an idealistic view of money matters one often finds in people their age. To fix the issue of parental objections, they decide to bump off Mary Drew’s mom, the one who was kicking up the biggest fuss.

The story is told in a combination of narrative from the day of the crime, flashbacks to events over the past year, and proceedings from the trial of the two girls (spoiler alert: they get caught).

I haven’t poked as much fun at this book as I have in past reviews because the plot and the writing are so much better, and I’m not saying this because I think lesbians are hot. The transition from a platonic friendship to romance seems natural. Sexual details are seldom explicit for “Palace of Pain” scene, where a little bondage and cutting might merit a second read if you’re into that sort of thing.

The good and the bad that came out of their relationship was born from innocence. It was an innocence that allowed their love to blossom and one that made it worth preserving no matter what the cost.

Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head

We’re having a bit of weather in these parts and it is supposed to continue through the weekend. Power at my apartment go knocked out at about 8:30 this morning but has probably been restored since then.

The six-block walk from the BART station to work soaked me to the skin but I’m not complaining. If there is any truth to the predictions about global warming, I should enjoy this kind of weather while it lasts before the entire planet is either ocean or Barstow.

That’s about all I have to report today. Be sure to come back Monday. I’ll be reviewing a novel about teenage lesbians and you wouldn’t want to miss that.

Bachelor Night, Plan B

Alex phoned yesterday at about five, asking if I wanted to go for an early drink. I did. My hangover was long gone, the day’s blog entry dutifully posted, and I was lying on the couch watching a “Twilight Zone” marathon. Since I’m not a pot smoker, none of the episodes’ twist endings were all that surprising. There was nothing keeping me at home.

I walked down to the end of Valencia Street, crossed Mission, and found the door to the Argus bolted shut. I called Alex on my cell.

“Argus is closed today,” I said. “How about the 33?”

“Yeah, I suppose,” he said. Alex didn’t sound very enthusiastic but I was glad he was still up for a drink. Since his wife went to Jamaica for a family holiday, he’s been home most nights watching blood-and-violence cinema on his flat-screen TV. Betty went home to look after cats so it was to be a boys’ night out, and least for an hour or two.

Other than a few slumming hipsters, the 3300 Club attracts a friendly blue-collar crowd. Attempting to order a Mojito will get you nothing but a raised eyebrow and a shake of the head. This is a bar for people who want a Budweiser and a shot of Jack Daniels to end (or start) their day.

Jameson’s on the rocks is acceptable as well. A good thing too, for I am a creature of habit.

Alex sat next to me, drinking a Sierra Nevada and lamenting the low alcohol content of beer. His usual poison is a Stoli Madras, which he prefers to be made with a lot of vodka and a little cranberry and orange juice thrown in for color. All the bartenders at the Argus had learned to mix the drink to his specifications but he was less trusting of those in a different venue.

After one Sierra, he was willing to risk it. He explained to the bartender exactly how he wanted his. Fortunately, she was a quick study. After a few sips of his Madras, a smile returned to his face.

We drank and talked of our respective futures. Alex is going to be the IT director of a company, an actual employee. This is a switch for him. He has been self-employed as a consultant for over a decade. He is now going to be in a purely managerial role. He will be forced to delegate all hands-on work, even the stuff he could accomplish faster himself. The prospect of this made him gulp down his drink and order a Jager shot.

There will be less upheaval for me in 2008. My goal will be the same as it was last year, sustainable mediocrity.

We finished our drinks and had another round. Bad Company played on the jukebox. The holidays were officially over. Tomorrow we would face the future, each in our own way.

Yet Another Clean Slate

It’s a brand new year. You know this because you woke up caked in vomit and feeling like someone took a power drill to your forehead. No matter, your current mess is the result of your 2007 self. In 2008, it will be different. You are going to quit smoking, lose weight, and when a girl scout comes to your house selling cookies, you will answer the door with pants on. But right now, you could really use a Bloody Mary.

I wish you a world of success in achieving your brand new you. If it doesn’t work out, don’t worry. 2009 is just around the corner.

In the past, my new year’s resolutions have been a reaction to whatever low I sank to on New Year’s Eve. My success rate has been pretty good in the long run. Whether the credit goes to maturity or fatigue, my behavior has gradually improved.

I didn’t do anything reprehensible last night so I can approach my resolutions from a perspective beyond damage control. That still leaves me with plenty of avenues of self improvement. I won’t bore you with the details of all my vices, nor do I plan on abstaining from any of them completely. Let’s just say that a little moderation will save me a whole lot of money, not to mention the wear and tear on my liver.