That's Something You Don't See Every Day, Chauncey

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Archive for August, 2011

Downwards is the only way forwards.

Posted by kozemp on August 15, 2011

Last night I was at this girl’s house, a friend of mine.

Nothing serious, nothing fancy. Simply that, after 8,000 tries, I had finally convinced her to sit down and watch Doctor Who. We made some popcorn, sat on the couch, and watched The Eleventh Hour. It was great, of course, but The Eleventh Hour is always great. After the show was over she got up to take the popcorn stuff out into the kitchen.

“Admit I was right!” I shouted after her. “You loved it!”

“It was pretty good,” she said from the other room.

I muttered to myself, “that’s not exactly what I asked for.”

I twisted around to my right and leaned over the arm of the couch to look at the pile of books stacked up on the end table. What I saw there shocked me – I owned EVERY SINGLE BOOK sitting on that table. The first three Game of Thrones books. A couple of the recent Star Wars releases. Gatsby. Dune. Jurassic Park. Even, most unbelievably, a copy of Queen and Country Volume 3 – Operation Crystal Ball, and the red leather hardcover to boot – a book that until last night I was fairly certain I was the only person anywhere to actually buy.

How did I never know she read this stuff? Queen and Country? How has THAT never come up in conversation? We’re the only two people on earth who read this.

I spent some time doing some quick mental calculations – it felt like minutes but it was only probably a few seconds, she was still in the kitchen and how long can it take to toss a popcorn bowl in the sink – and came to the rough conclusion that the odds of me owning every single one of the motley collection of books that happened to be on her end table the night I stopped by was something like one in nine hundred billion; the odds of me never knowing that our reading habits were almost exactly similar was just as unlikely.

The fact that the odds were so far against it didn’t really trouble me – last month when I had my wisdom teeth out, the oral surgeon was describing “dry socket,” a particularly heinous side effect of tooth extraction that involves a lot of pain and gunk and going back to the oral surgeon every day for ten straight days.

“Jesus,” I said, “what are the odds of me getting that?”

The doc waved his hand dismissively. “One, maybe two percent. I wouldn’t worry.”

I snorted. “You know how much money I’ve lost to one or two percent?”

Three days later I was back at the oral surgeon’s, and I was back again every day for the next week and a half.

So I didn’t think much about the ridiculously long odds. I have more experience with ridiculous odds than a normal person could possibly believe.

Still, all the same books. Fucking wild.

I turned back around and my feet got tangled up in something. I felt a sharp stab of pain in my knee and heard someone say “waaaaaaah!” and suddenly I was stuck on the couch and my friend was sprawled out on top of me.

I muttered to myself, “gah, fucking knee.”

More conversationally, I said, “what the hell?”

She smiled at me. “You turned around the EXACT second I was right behind you and you kicked my legs out from under me. I tried to keep my balance, but…” She looked at the coffee table. “It was either fall on you or the coffee table.” She smiled again.

I looked at the table, which was very nice. “Probably the smart play.” I looked back at her and realized that the result of my clumsiness and her nice furniture could be interpreted in a fairly lascivious manner. “It wasn’t intentional, I swear. I can barely see out the eyes in the front of my head, the ones in the back are total shit.”

She said, “it’s okay.”

And she smiled at me again, only this time it was different.

Again, I couldn’t tell you if it took a second or a minute, but eventually I realized, oh, I think we’re supposed to kiss now.

My brain went into warp speed overdrive.

“SEE!” It said. “You don’t have to always think and analyze and plan this shit and obsess about EVERY SINGLE DETAIL and bore everyone you know to death with this crap for months on end. Sometimes, good things just HAPPEN. Did you even think this was possible tonight? Hell, you didn’t even PLAN tonight!”

No, I said back. I did not plan this. Hell, I’ve never even thought about this.

As her and I leaned toward each other my brain quietly said:


The picosecond before we kissed, my phone rang.

Since 2004, the ringtone on my various cellphones has been the theme song to the BBC show Hustle. It is, honestly, a remnant of an earlier, darker time in my life. I had no job, no prospects at a job, I hadn’t founded The Pros From Dover or discovered the Dark Horse yet, and I was generally and thoroughly an angry, miserable bastard. One night, though, I discovered Hustle on the internet and was instantly hooked on it, staying up until 4 or 5AM to download new episodes as they came out, and when I got a phone that could make a ringtone out of any mp3 on earth, I chose the theme music to a show about con men.

I would say it is a wonder that I ever escaped the sea of horrific negativity I lived in back then, but that last paragraph puts the lie to that: later that very year I started the theater company and found the DH, and like almost everything I’ve ever done that was worthwhile, other people did a lot of the work.

Still, in the last couple weeks I’ve been thinking I need to change my ringtone. I still love the show, dont get me wrong, but high-class British con artists just, I dunno, it isn’t me anymore. I’ve pretty much got it narrowed down to two choices, and for a while now I’ve said to myself, eh, one of these days I’ll get past the inertia of all these years and finally change it.

As my phone rang last night, that picosecond stretched out and I thought, god I wish I’d changed that stupid ringtone. Talk about bad timing. And it’s so fucking LOUD.

But then, the picosecond stretched out even further when I thought, wait a minute. My phone isn’t THAT loud. It sounds like it’s coming from all over the place. And, what the fuck, didn’t I put my phone on vibrate when I got here?

The picosecond stretched out some more and I thought, hang on, when did I get here?

My spine turned to ice.

HOW did I get here?

The theme song from Hustle blaring around me from the entire world, the picosecond refused to end and I realized my phone wasn’t going off because someone was calling.

It wasn’t a ringtone.

It was the music warning me to be ready for the kick.

I looked up at her, desperate for the magic picosecond to last a little longer.

She just smiled again, and the picosecond snapped.

I lashed my arm out at the phone, sitting on top of a stack of books next to my bed. I pressed the button on the side with my thumb to turn off the alarm. I held the phone up an inch in front of my face – my glasses were on the other side of the room – so I could read the message box. “7:13. ALARM.

It might as well have said, “HA HA, JOKE’S ON YOU.

Eventually, via a complex system of grabbing the door frame and slowly pulling with various major muscle groups – getting up in the morning with a bad back is always a challenge – I managed to haul myself upright and sit on the edge of my bed.  I sat there for a second, then looked at the phone again.

7:13. ALARM.

I muttered to myself, “just a dream. Doesn’t mean anything.”

I looked down, and the phone said:


I got up to get in the shower, tossed my phone on the bed and thought, the ringtone is getting changed today. That thing is never playing that goddamned theme song ever again.



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CLASSIC: The next time we hang out, I will redeem myself.

Posted by kozemp on August 8, 2011

A little while back I was walking past a bar in a casino after a mildly disappointing round of Texas-style Hold’em when a cocktail waitress I knew from another casino came by. We headed in, I bought some drinks, we got to talking, and at one point she looked at me like I had three heads.

“Are you actually enjoying this song?” she asked. Apparently I had been lightly bopping my head to the techno song that was playing over the bar speakers.

It is important to note that I cannot discern the words of this song, merely that I can hear the backing tracks and that I am aware of vocals which I cannot make out.

“Yeah, it’s not bad,” I said. “It’s well-put-together.”

She gave me an indulgent smile. “Are you sure?”

“Yes I’m sure,” I said, and I began to launch into an exegesis on how to construct a good techno track.

She interrupted me about halfway into my second sentence and said, still smiling, “this is Miley Cyrus.”

I said, “it’s wha?”

“Miley Cyrus,” she said. “You know, from Hannah Montana? On the Disney Channel? My niece loves it. She’s eight.”

I opened and closed my mouth a few times, trying to say something. What eventually came out was: “Yes. I see. Well.” (pause) “Yes.” (longer pause) “It’s still put together pretty well.” (pause) “Yes.” (pause) “Fucking hell.”

Flash forward a couple weeks after that. I’m on vacation at Disney World, it’s our last day, and my family and I are at Epcot. They tell me repeatedly that I should do the Test Track ride while they go get lunch – there’s no FastPasses left, but the wait for a single person is only 30 minutes (as opposed to 130 minutes for a group), and that gives them time to go eat in the restaurant in Mexico (which I do not want to go to) while I wait.

“It’s worth half an hour,” my father says. When we used to go when I was a kid I thought my Dad was something of a wuss when it came to rides, but after a) aging 15 years since my last trip, and b) riding Mission Space a few days before that and wishing afterwards that Poseidon would impale me on his trident and end my misery, my views on rides have gotten a lot closer to his. So on his advice I get in line for Test Track. This is actually going to be the only line I will have waited in the entire trip, so before they go to lunch I fish my iPod out of my bag.

Apparently the volume on my iPod is far too loud, since a few minutes later while I’m standing in line, a little girl in front of me who might have been 10 or 11 pokes me in the arm. I reach into my pocket to pause the iPod and say, “yes?”

She says, “are you listening to Miley Cyrus?”

“No,” I say, far too quickly to fool anyone over the age of 13.

She actually looks at me with suspicion – her brow furrows and she squints at me – and says, “it sure SOUNDS like Miley Cyrus.”

“No, no, no,” I again say way too quickly, giving a laugh that, again, only a child of this age wouldn’t recognize as pathetically fake. I reach into my pocket to pull out the iPod and surreptitiously hit the “Track Forward” button as many times as I can before pulling it out. “It’s…” I look at the screen to see what’s come up. “Motorhead.”


“What’s Motorhead?” the little girl asks.


“It’s, er…” How to explain this to a ten-year-old girl? “Well, they’re a band.”

“Oh,” she says. She pauses for a moment. “Do they listen to Miley Cyrus? They sound a lot like her.”

I say, “I doubt very much that they do.”

“Are you SURE you weren’t listening to Miley Cyrus?” she asks me again, clearly not sold on the idea.

“Nope,” I say. “Motorhead, baby!”

Weakly, I put up the horns.

The doors to the ride mercifully open at this point – the wait ended up being more like three minutes, though the longest three minutes of my life – and that disappointed voice in the back of my brain says, “you have sunk to a new low.”


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