Paranoid Time

If I were a saner man, I would breathed a sigh of relief after learning I’d been spared in the recent round of layoffs. Granted, avoiding the ax doesn’t give me license to spend my workday surfing porn but if I get my work done and and not piss off anybody, I should have nothing to worry about. The staff needed pruning. It was pruned. I’m still here. End of story.

Unfortunately, there are parts of my psyche that are just not wired up that way. Doom for others in the past raises the chances of doom for me in the present, regardless of all the evidence to the contrary.

Here’s an example. This morning, the engineering VP came over to have a chat with my boss. This is not unusual as there are often production issues that need to be addressed. Even though my boss and I sit about 10 feet away from each other, I was working on some stuff so I didn’t pay much attention to the conversation.

The one part I did overhear was the VP saying, “That thing we talked about. I’ll send out an email.”

The rational part of my mind shrugged it off as something that was not my concern. Unfortunately, the what-if part of my brain could not resist the urge to offer up a conspiracy theory.

“Dave, you’re fucked,” it said. “That email is going to HR to inform them of your impending termination. I wouldn’t be surprised if they hire Blackwater to handle security. Hell, they might even have you shot in the head and your body shipped to China for organ harvest.”

Fortunately, the what-if part of my brain is fond enough of hyperbole for me to seldom take it seriously.

Sleaze, Please

I have decided to bring back reviews of sleazy pulp novels. These entries will occupy the Tuesday slot, just after Meatmarket Mondays.

For the first two installments, I’ll be reprising reviews published last year in the now-defunct Pulp Reviews section of the site. That’ll give me the time to both address some technical and design issues. It’ll also give me a chance to assemble a backlog of content to cover those days when I’m too pooped to post.

San Francisco fans of this fiction genre are encouraged to visit Kayo Books. Thanks to their wide selection, I can dedicate my time to reading and reviewing the books rather than hunting for them. And no, they’re not paying me for this plug though I did steal the above cover art from them.

For fans of my random musings, fear not. Wednesday through Friday will be chock full of them.

Prodigal Scum

Week before last, I accomplished something of sorts. I had a bartender cut me off for being too drunk.

I can’t remember this ever occurring before. It could have happened plenty of times post-blackout, except that I seldom experience those. Memories of the night before may be a little hazy when I wake up, but as the day wears on, they coalesce into embarrassing crystal clarity.

The night in question was no exception. After a stressful but productive day at work, I needed a drink. In fact, I needed several. I wanted to drink myself into that elusive alcoholic paradise where my banter is witty while at the same time, hot babes lust after my tortured poet’s soul.

Nice work if you can get it.

As you can imagine, the evening did not quite turn out that way. It started out swimmingly. Good friends, good conversation, all was right in the world. The problem was that I’m a whiskey drinker, which means there is an extra level of intoxication waiting in the wings. I’m a seasoned veteran and should have been mindful of this, but that night I was in no mood to be mindful of anything.

By 11 pm, I was a stumbling, leering wreck. Taking a seat and holding onto the bar to maintain balance, I attempted to order another drink. The bartender, quite rightly, said I had enough. No matter, thought I, and cajoled a friend into buying me a another whiskey. After that, I had a few glorious moments of pirouetting about and bumping into people until the bartender came up to me, snatched the drink from my hand, and told me I had to go home.

I had fucked up. Not only that, I fucked up at the Argus, my local and home away from home. I needed time away to atone. Fortunately for me, I have plenty of liquor at home so atonement meant getting ripped to the tits on scotch and treating a BDSM chatroom to the kind of obscenities that even makes those perverts’ skin crawl.

Ten days later, my friend Alex reported back to me that all was forgiven, this time. I have since been back to the Argus and have more or less behaved myself.

Redemption is a wonderful thing. You should try it sometime.

The $650 Chipmunk Makeover

A large part of my daily grind involves my teeth. Actually, most of the grinding goes on at night when the horrors locked up in my subconscious get loose and force the choppers of my upper and lower jaw into a war of mutually assured annihilation.

Years ago, my dentist fitted me with mouth guard to protect my teeth from being ground away. It was a large, cumbersome plastic thing that resembled what a boxer wear when he steps into the ring. The difference was that boxers, even punch-drunk ones, knew better than to wear theirs while they slept.

The guard covered all of my upper teeth, sealing them off from the natural process by which the mouth cleanses itself. The result was that by morning, the inside of the thing would be a reservoir of plaque and drool. In order to keep stalagmites of tartar forming, the guard needed to vigorously cleaned with a toothbrush after each use.

Ultimately, I learned that my devotion to the upkeep of high-maintenance dental gear was on a par with my devotion to the upkeep of high-maintenance women.

“The hell with it,” I concluded. “Let ’em grind.”

And grind they did. Five long years of nocturnal gnashing exacted a horrible toll on my teeth. Fortunately, mouth-guard technology has progressed quite a bit since then.

When I was at the dentist yesterday, I tried on one of these newfangled devices. It is much smaller, attaching to the two upper front teeth only, keeping the others apart without marinating in their own slime. He handed me a mirror and let me admire my rodent-like countenance.

I can have one molded to fit me, all for the low price of 130 shots of Jameson’s down at the local bar.

I am quickly making my dentist a very rich man.

That Tetracycline Smile

I came out of the Powell Street BART station a little after nine and started walking toward Union Square. Department stores and tourist boutiques shared the street with older businesses that evoked the San Francisco of Herb Caen, if not Dashiell Hammett. The night’s fog still hung overhead and thanks to the mayor’s recent crackdown on the homeless, the urine stench was at a minimum.

I arrived at an office building on the 400 block of Sutter Street and took the elevator to the 19th floor. Around the corner and down the hall was the dental lab. I was sent there to determine the matching color for a crown on my upper canine. The darkest my dentist had to choose from was “coprophagous chain smoker,” which simply wouldn’t do. I was instructed to go down to the lab so they could pick something suitable from their “Shane MacGowan” collection.

The lab had no real front office to speak of, just a secretary at a desk with paperwork piled high in several places. I had a clear view of of the back where little white plumes of dust rose from the workbenches of technicians shaped fake teeth with miniature belt sanders.

I was quickly introduced to the lead tech, an older Filpina whom I’ll call Imelda. She led me back to her work area where, on command, I bared my teeth like an animal.

“Tectracycline,” she said, and waved over an assistant for a second opinion.

“Oh wow,” said the assistant.

I told Imelda how I was given tetracycline when I had my tonsils removed in 1965 and it had discolored my teeth.

“This is going to be difficult,” said Imelda. “The discoloration is not not uniform. Have a look.”

She then handed me a mirror. I hadn’t really noticed it before (or maybe I just didn’t want to), but my teeth contained a blended strata of hues. It was like a Rothko painting.

“To match all these colors, I’m going to need you to come back after the crown is molded. I think I can do it but it won’t be easy.”

Naturally, I consented. Far be for me to keep Imelda from what will no doubt prove to be her masterwork. Also, I could treat the whole experience like a modeling gig. I liked that. It made me feel glamorous.

Heads Have Rolled

We had a round of layoffs at work this morning. Twelve people lost their jobs. Fortunately, I was not among them.

Compared to the sort of blood letting I’ve seen during the dot-com bust, 12 is a pretty low body count. It still sucks though, and not just for the people who got laid off. Unless the hit list is made up entirely of slackers, there is a whole bunch of extra work that everyone else will have to do. As I am an alcoholic and not a workaholic, you can understand my problem with this.

In my group, one of the other programmers got the ax. He’s good, arguably better than I am. I don’t know all the factors behind management’s decision, but let’s just say that my wide stance in the men’s room has done wonders for my job security (wink, wink).


You are reading the 100th blog entry to be published on Poison Spur. Tonight when I am at home drinking scotch out of a Santa chalice and looking at internet porn, I will raise my glass and toast this milestone. I urge you to do the same.

I’ve been pretty happy with how the site has progressed overall. My writing has become more coherent and I’m pleased with Meatmarket’s contributions on Mondays. There is a measure of mad genius in her and Poison Spur benefits from a take on life other than my own.

In fact, I’ve been enthusiastic enough to start promoting the site through search-engine submissions and the like. The benefit of this endeavor has been a small but measurable increase in readership. The drawback is a daily deluge of spam, enough so to force me to disable the autoposting of comments. I apologize in advance to those visitors who wished to send their credit-card information to the Russian mafia while thinking they were buying Disney toys for their kids.

I used to bemoan the fact that Poison Spur has no discernible direction but now I’m OK with that. If I were to draft a mission statement for the site, it would simply say “Whee!”

Or let me put it another way.

Let’s say some guy wants to try out a pickup line. He sits down next to some random woman at a bar and asks her “Are you a party pooper or do you just have one?”

What could he hope to accomplish other than having her throw the contents of her drink in his face? Nothing, and that’s the point. It is not the hope of favorable outcome that makes him say those words. It is the joy he derives from saying them.

And that, my friends, is what Poison Spur is all about.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Singed

A flipped-out flapper, Zelda was
Born into luxurious wealth
But money mattered not because
It could not save her mental health

For reasons hers, she married Scott
Another lapse of inhibition
Together with that wordsmith sot
They thumbed their nose at prohibition

From bottoms up to bottomed out
The onset of insanity
While Scott got drunk, she’d scream and shout
‘Twas time to throw away the key

One night a fire took Zelda’s life
A taste of past and future hell
This tragic end for F. Scott’s wife
Burned crisp inside her padded cell

Babylon Regurgitated

I find myself looking back on low points of my existence with a certain fondness if I feel those moments are truly behind me. Most have come and gone a long time ago, like when I was fresh out of college with little fewer prospects. Some are more recent though. This past Tuesday night immediately comes to mind.

I was logged into the A/V chatroom on a BDSM website while drinking scotch out of a plastic Santa chalice. Before that, I had a few Jameson’s at the Argus and polished off the last of a bottle of port after that. I shouldn’t have let myself get near a keyboard, let alone treat my fellow cyberpervs so the sights and sounds of me.

The room’s moderator tolerated my jokes, even the ones about grandmother killing and diarrhea gargling, but put her foot down when I tried to rally the troops to violate house rules by sending her private messages without asking. “IM the shit out of her,” I said. No one took me up on the offer, which is probably why I’m not banned for life.

Soon after that, I logged off and went to bed after some much-needed vomiting.

I’m a drunk. I admit that. However, it takes some very special circumstances to send me on the path toward this sort of freshman frat-boy stupidity. This was no exception.

Betty and our friend Malibooty chose my apartment as their party pad on Monday without asking me about it first. Never mind that I’m the one who actually lives there, their exuberant spirit of sisterhood was authorization enough. As for myself, I decided to avoid that scene and sought sanctuary at the bar.

When I felt too tired and liquored up to continue my self-imposed exile any longer, I went home. The women had mellowed out by then, but not before Malibooty had decided to make friends with one of my neighbors by shouting “Show me your cock!” at him from the back deck. I crawled into bed, wrapped the pillow around my head, and let oblivion overtake me.

Oblivion lasted until just after three, when my cell phone went off. Betty’s text messages from six hours earlier had just arrived. I woke up and saw my cat ripping a mouse to shreds. Unable to get back to sleep, I went into the office and checked that program I supposedly fixed. It was leaking memory like a sieve. And in just a few short hours, I had an appointment to be tortured in a dentist chair.

So you see, none of this was really my fault. And even if it was, who cares? Life is good now. My code works, my teeth are better, and the cat is content with kibble. I deserve to celebrate. Time for a drink.