Monday, March 03, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 21 — FLOOD
Current mood: loving the warm weather

I’m thirty and home from work early because of the gorgeous weather outside — sixty-four degrees.  My manager let us go at three, something she normally would not do unless there was a fire in the building or Ed McMahon showed up to give her a million dollars.  But we haven’t seen the sun for about three months in our lake-side town, so even she is mesmerized by its shine. 

I crack open a beer and invite Cooper, my fluffy Eskimo dog out onto the back patio.   I pop on my headset, we drink in the rays, and all is well with the world.  Until a text appears on my Treo screen: Flood Warning.  Melting snow floods lake’s banks.  Emergency evacuation.  And a list of just three streets in peril.  Mine is one of them.   

Cooper and I race down the driveway, but we’re too late.  A wall of water comes at us from the north.  Fortunately, all of my neighbors are still at work.

“Cooper,” I scream as the frigid wave bears down.  It’s taller than my SUV, taller than the balcony on my second-story, taller than the new roof I had installed last December (by a hunky crew of twenty-somethings from the local tool exchange.)  The only structure on my street that the wave does not appear to dwarf is the historic oak on the corner of (ironically) Elm Street and Miller Ave. 

The tree grows out of Miller’s Mound — some guy named Miller planted it back in the 1800s.  Something about the soil agreed with it; it grew huge.  Big enough to be  featured on the Sienna Club’s Web site and even a PBS NOVA special.  Today, I don’t care about its fame, I care about its height.

Grabbing Cooper by his pudgy belly (he’s been munching and sleeping quite a bit this winter, not unlike me) I sprint down the street.  I can feel the humidity of the spray on the back of my neck.  Reaching the tree, I calculate that I have about twelve seconds before the water pulverizes both of us.

Next to Miller’s Mound is Miller’s Park, where they’ve used public funds to build one of those funky kids’ playgrounds.  The kind with curvy tunnels, artsy benches, and a huge bungee-jumping court.  Balancing Cooper under my left arm, I grab one of the bungees and leap.   

As the water descends, we ascend, swinging a lazy, powerful arc to the top of Miller’s Oak.  I grab for one of the highest branches and cling.

After the death toll is miraculously tallied at zero, after the houses on my street dry out, after Oprah features me, Cooper, and Miller’s great-great grand-daughter on her show, Cooper and I head back to my patio for a beer, headphones, and a flood of much-desired sunshine. 


Currently   listening :
  Moon Over the   Freeway
  By The Ditty Bops
  Release date: By 23 May, 2006     

Friday, February 29, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 20 — GOOD BOOKS
Current mood: Somewhere between Bayport and Buckland
Category: Somewhere between Bayport and Buckland Life

I’m twenty-four and supposed to be doing something “I never did before” because it’s Leap Day.  This day that people come on the news and say dorky things like ‘they’re only seventeen years old — even though they have gray hair and are retired.’  All I really want to do is stay home and read a good book.  Maybe a detective story; maybe a fantasy.      

BUT, in the spirit of leaping, I take a jog — not on the regular route by the museum with the duck pond.  Instead, to do something “different”, I head down toward the tools factory with the cigarrette butts in the bushes. 

I’m just about to turn around and head back to the museum (and the duck pond) when I notice that a small shed behind the factory has a lit sign next to the door.  I go closer.  “Speak, Friend, and Enter,” the sign reads.  Since I’ve been reading my Lord of the Rings this winter, I decide to go for it.  After all, it is Leap Day. 

“Friend,” I say out loud and reach for the door knob. That’s when three guys leap out of the dark and overwhelm me. 

“What a geek,” one of them laughs as they tie my hands behind my back.  “I told you that Lord of the Rings crap would reel them in.”

Too late, I recognize them as “The Datong Dudes,” a nortorious trio who kidnaps nerdy, intelligent gay men in my city and forces them into male prostitution overseas.  But I quickly gather my wits. 

I remember my training from The Hardy Boys Detective Manual (my favorite book when I was thirteen) and make sure to flex ever muscle while they cinch my bonds.  I study their mannerisms, looking for weakness.  

“Put ‘im in the truck,” the big one (the leader, my Hardy training tells me.)  The other two throw me into the back of a moving van.  It’s pitch black, but I feel other bodies around me.  The door slides shut; a lock clicks. 

“How many of you are there?” I ask into the blackness. 

“Eight,” a voice near me whispers.  “But you make nine.  Just like the Fellowship of the Ring.” 

I roll my eyes, even though nobody can see.  “Hang tight, guys.  I think I can get my hands free.”  No one speaks as I force my body to go limp.  The ropes fall off.

“Hey, that worked pretty well,” I think to myself.  I pull out my Swiss army knife (I always keep one in my pants, for any emergency) and free my fellow prisioners. 

“What do we do now?” one asks. 

“It’s darker than the Mines of Moria in here,” another mutters.  

I take control.  “Okay, here’s the plan.  By law, these vans have to have an air vent near the cab exchange.  We locate it, escape, and turn the tables on the The Dudes.  There’s nine of us, and only three of them.”

I find the air vent and pull back the mesh.  One by one, we climb through.  Our captors are on the other side of the van, talking. 

“I think we should get a few more.  This load of geeks won’t bring us more than a hundred grand,” the leader says. 

Before either of his companions replies, I give the signal.  “‘By Elbereth and Lúthien the Fair!” on of my companions yells. 

“Just take them down,” I say. 

After the police commend us for our brave efforts against these nefarious crooks, after the DA successfully convicts all three, after we’re featured on a Comedy Channel special titled “The Nine Gay Nerds”, I go back to my apartment and crack open my Hardy Boy Detective Manual.

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.



Currently   listening :
  Lord of the Rings   Cast Recording
  By Original London Cast
  Release date: 05 February, 2008     

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 19 – THE EXORCIST

I’m fifteen and spend the evening writing in my journal.  I used to call it a diary, but now that I’m trying to be cool like the other guys at my all-boy Catholic high school, it’s a journal. 

I got a 78 on my Geometry test today, but I don’t really care, because Tom, the tall star of the basketball team sits next to me in Geometry.  Sometimes he puts his massive hand on the back of my neck while he’s talking to me — and my insides melt.  That’s the kind of stuff I put in my journal, which pretty much feeds my status of non-cool. 

I go downstairs to watch some tube; everybody else is in bed.  We don’t have cable and the channel I’m getting is from the next city over, so the screen is full of snow, but The Exorcist is on, so I watch.  I’m particulary psyched, ’cause my high school English teacher (a priest), is actually one of the priests in the movie.  Another thing for my journal.

We get to the part where the girl’s bed is lifting up into the air and slamming onto the floor, and I’m sufficiently creeped out because it’s late at night in our creepy farmhouse way out in the country, where anybody could hide out in the woods after committing an axe murder or something, where they could be looking in the pitch-black windows at me watching The Exorcist, where they could be just about to bust the back door in and slice me into little chunks. 

That’s what I’m thinking about when  the couch, my mom’s rocker,  the coffee table, and the family dog start going up and down in the room at the same rhythm as the onscreen furniture. 

I scream, a girly, embarrassing scream that would also keep me off the cool list at school, and try to figure out what to do.  The dog barks; he’s hanging in mid-air with his legs and tail dangling. 

I start hearing a low cursing whisper coming from the corners of the room when I realize this is for real — it’s sink or swim.  I’m an altar boy, so I have some idea how to handle such situations.  I leap from the couch and, with a half-flip that might actually earn me some cool points, land near the wall with the crucifix.  I grab it and wave it around, yelling some Latin prayers I had to learn to pass my altar boy test.

The furniture begins to vibrate; the dog looks like he’s going to throw up. 

The girl’s head on TV is spinning now — when it stops, she is looking right at me, which freaks me out more than the furniture.  With a judo kick worthy of Emma Peel, I smash out the front of the TV screen, glass flying everywhere.  As added incentive, I stick the crucifix into the smoking guts and move it around a little.  The couch, Mom’s rocker, the coffee table, and the canine all slam to the floor. 

Even though the fire department (with the beefy Saturday night truck crew who I secretly wish would linger) determine that my parents’ house is not in danger of burning down and that the dog hasn’t broken any bones, even though the local paper features a picture of me next to my high school teacher/priest/actor with a caption “Altar Boy Strikes Back”, even though the cool kids invite me to eat lunch with them in the cafeteria, it’s Tom’s massive hand on the back of my neck in Geometry while I tell him the whole story that sets my heart to racing. 

For FUN, I put my stuff at

For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at

I invite you to visit my stuff.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 18 – PLUMBER

I’m forty-one and late for work.  It’s freezing out this a.m.; last night the weatherman (the cute one with the dimples) said we might hit negative numbers.

I’m just over bronchitis, so I’m still dragging, which I’ve been doing for a month now.  Even though I’m late, I linger in the hot shower, the favorite part of every day.  The warm, steamy water cascading over me — until it stops abruptly, with a healthy groan from the maintenance closet. 

I try to wipe shampoo off my face and press the buttons on my cell phone at the same time.  The muscular plumber arrives and assesses the situation.  I assess him. 

“Looks like your supply pipe froze,” he says, tapping on the hot water heater.  “We’ve had a dozen calls so far this morning.  I’ve been up since 3 a.m.” 

We go to the basement to find the “supply pipe.”  He hooks up a hairdryer to rectify the matter, then prepares to leave.  “You should be all right in a couple of hours,” he says.  I open the back door, regretting that my pipes weren’t in need of more maintenance, because he’s really hunky.  He steps through the back door and shakes my hand.

I see it before he does: an icicle the size of Jaws rocketing toward us from above. I’m in motion before I can cry out: I tackle him around the waist and we both tumble into the holly bush.  The icicle explodes on the white-marble patio, spraying frigid chunks in every direction.  The impact splits the marble slab where we had been standing.

We get out of the holly; we’re pretty sincerely scratched up — not quite enough to go to the hospital, but enought to go back inside, dab each other’s bodies with iodine, dress in robes (we were scratched EVERYWHERE), take some hot cocoa (with marshmallows) by the fireplace, and wait for the water to thaw so we can take a much-desired shower.

For FUN, I put my stuff at

For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at

I invite you to visit my stuff.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 17 – EDITS
Current mood: Cold!
Category: Cold! Life

I’m fifty-six and really regretting that I didn’t sign up for the early retirement my manager offered last year.  In the July sunshine, it seemed like a crappy deal, with 30% of my salary for the rest of my life and no health-care benefits.  But here on a freezing, pitch-black-at-7-a.m., Upstate New York winter morning, I’m rethinking my decision. 

I should be throwing back the covers, working the arthritis out of my knees, heading to the shower, then heading to work — but it’s warm in my bed under the down comforter my sister gave me at Christmas.  I stay.

I hear the snow plow scraping against the bricks in the neighbor’s driveway and the creaking of my worn-out roof overhead.  The weather man (the really cute one with the crinkly dimples) predicted possibly two feet of snow overnight; the continued scraping and the overloud creaking confirms that this prediction may have been accurate. 

My fluffy Eskimo dog, a Spitz-Husky named Cooper, bounds toward the bed, coaxing me to get up.  I resist, although I accept his enthusiastic licking of my face.

The scene explodes when the creaking above us becomes a groan, a screech, then a terrific ripping sound.  Ceiling tiles, support beams, and bitterly-cold snow race to see who they can wipe out first, me or Cooper.  

My reaction is equally explosive.  I flip sideways, pitching the comforter over Cooper as we both hit the floor.  I’m pleased that I lost at least three of the seven pounds I gained over the holidays, because I’m able to fit both myself and my dog under the solid oak frame of this bed I inherited from my Aunt Margey, the aunt who used to watch The Incredible Hulk and eat Mexican sundaes with me on Friday nights.  The bed, from a different, more solid generation of furniture, might have withstood the beating of the collapsing roof on its own.  But today, it’s aided by several supporting stacks of paper — old versions of my unpublished memoir — which I shoved underneath my bed in a grand preservation effort.  

I could have thrown those old copies away, with their too-long chapters, with their red-inked pages full of crossouts and rewrites.  But something nostalgic and overly compulsive in me clings to each edit, as though each were a precious piece in an unfinished puzzle.  

Later, after the rescue crew pulls us out (Cooper smothering each of their faces with licky enthusiasm), after the AP picks up the local paper’s article “One Writer’s Edits Save Two Lives”, after my rising-in-fame memoir (with a picture of me and Cooper on the book flap) creeps closer to the bestseller list, I have the supreme satisfaction of calling my manager and tendering my two-week notice. 

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.



Currently   listening :
  Avenue Q (2003   Original Broadway Cast)
  By Jeff Marx
  Release date: 07 October, 2003     

Thursday, January 03, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 16 – TV NIGHT
Current mood: In the twilight
Category: In the twilight Life

Okay, I’m thirty-six and vegging out in front of the big screen.  Not the regular big screen, the freakin’ awesome nine-foot-by-nine-foot projection I rigged up on the third floor.  Cooper is with me.  He likes the commercials where dogs bark — he tips his head and stares at the screen.  Tonight, we’re watching the Twilight Zone marathon on SciFi.  It’s the one where everybody’s afraid of the little boy in town.  The one with all the strange powers. 

When the little boy makes a guy disappear, Cooper begins to bark furiously at the big screen.  The boy looks directly into the camera.  Directly at Cooper and me.  “Shut up” he says.  Cooper stops barking immediately.

I should be frightened, but I’m mad.  “He wasn’t doing anything wrong!” I yell at the screen. 

The boy looks at me now.  “Drop dead,” he says, and a bolt flashes out of the nine-by-nine screen, right at my armchair.  I dive for the floor as the room explodes in a blue crackle that smells like burning hair. 

“Cooper, down!” I yell, giving him the raised arm signal the obedience trainer taught us.  Cooper hugs the floor. The little boy seems focused on us now.  He takes a deep breath, then points.  His arm comes out of the screen, right into our room. He cocks his thumb like a gun and gestures at my beloved doggie. 

“Bang bang” he starts to say, but now I’m not mad, I’m furious.  My dive from the armchair rolls around toward the screen.  I kick with my feet, like Keanu Reeves.  The kid’s arm goes down, as bullets pummel the carpet.  I reach and grab the arm, and give one, firm yank.  The kid falls out of the TV screen and onto my floor.  I quickly cover his mouth with one hand and hold his arms with the other. 

“I bet your parents don’t believe in spanking,” I say, as he struggles in vain. 

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series — Ego-Strategy 15: WONDER WOMAN
Current mood: Guilty Pleasure
Category: Guilty Pleasure Life

I’m thirty-five and listening to Maroon 5.   I’m not even sure who they are, but my nephew got me into them, so I go with it. 

It’s one of those steamy hot summer nights at the campground.  I’m there with my spitz-husky, Cooper, who loves the bluffs where the waves crash when it’s windy. 

Coop and I head out for a midnight run on the beach near the bluffs, and that’s when he starts barking furiously.  It’s pitch black, all I can see in the late moon glow is someone backed up against bluff.  I call Cooper off and try to explain, but suddenly two guys and a dog attack us — from the left, right, and middle. 

Cooper takes on the dog while I’m working against the two others.  I’m glad I’ve been working out so much this summer — because as I’ve always imagined might happen in a situation like this, I explode into one of those scenes from The Matrix where Neo is throwing body kicks and punches at lightning speed.  The first guy is down before he knows what hits him.  The second is more of an equal opponent — I sense he’s seen The Matrix too.  We back slowly away from each other, evaluating in the dim light.  We pace in a half circle, then I do the Morpheus hand motion, waving him forward. 

With a huge yell, he assumes the crane pose from Karate Kid and launches himself at me.  Taking him off guard, I do a Lynda Carter Wonder Woman spin and beat off his attack.  Now he’s on the ground.  Now he’s out cold.

After I check on Coop, who’s chased his doggie opponent away, after the police come and arrest the two guys for smuggling cocaine through the caves at the foot of the bluff (a la The Hardy Boys), after Cooper and I are featured in the local newspaper “The Bluff Blog” — I rent some Wonder Woman DVDs.  Cooper and I settle into our regular spots at home and enjoy some guilty pleasure TV.

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.



Currently   listening :
  Wonder Woman   (Theme Song

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Current mood: Heavy Sigh…

I’m seventeen and ready for bed.  It’s one of those nights where I’m up late screwing off with all my friends when I really should be doing my Chemistry lab.  But, what the hell, it’s not due until Friday, and this is only Wednesday.  

I get ready for bed at my sisters’ apartment, the one near my school in the city, the one where I stay and pretend I’m an orphan or some kid who didn’t really belong in my family, just somehow showed up one day and got included.  I’m sleeping in the living room, ’cause that’s where I fit best when they are both home.  On nights when my one sister works at the nursing home I get her bed — but tonight she’s not working, she’s drinking vodka with me and my friends.  That’s why we didn’t get the Chem lab done.

My friends are there too — my sisters seem to like them, so they are welcome at the apartment, and we all crash on the floor of the living room.  It’s one of those times when I wish I was alone with my best friend, because my head is buzzed just enough to admit that I’m hot for him.  But our other friends are right there too, so nothing happens, and I lay down with my own sleeping bag and think about what might have been.  Or what could be. 

We are all trying to fall asleep but I am really having a hard time of it.  The vodka was stronger than normal — Absolut, not Smirnoff — and my head is spinning.  I start humming, then giggling, then singing lyrics.  “My baby takes the morrning train…”  My friends punch me, then laugh, then join in the singing.  Pretty soon we are singing all the way to the end of the song, where “he works so hard …” and I am giggling to myself thinking about him working so hard….then thinking of my best friend…then somehow I am finally asleep.   

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.


Currently   listening :
  Sheena Easton :   Gold Collection
  By Sheena Easton
  Release date: 13 July, 1999

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Current mood: Holiday Happening
Category: Holiday Happening Life

I’m twenty-five and Amy Grant has come out with another awesome Christmas album — Home for Christmas.  I pop it into the CD player, crank up the volume, and open a bottle of wine. 

Just when I get to the part in Grown-Up Christmas List where my eyes tear up, somebody starts beating on my apartment door.  I look through the fish-eye, it’s some girl.  She sorta looks familiar, but I can’t place her.  But it’s Christmas Eve, so I open.  

“Glad you answered,” she says, pulling a sawed-off shotgun from behind her right leg.  “Shut off the fucking Christmas music, gay boy, or I’ll shut you both off.”

She points the gun at me.   Too late I recognize her as “Mad-On Martha”, the gay-bashing right-wing hate-crimer who’s been terrorizing my city for too long.

I walk toward the stereo.  My heart pounds, my hair tingles, but my mind races.  I mentally calculate the distance: the couch, the CD tower, her gun, the distorted light from the Christmas tree. 

“Did you know,” I say, pushing the Eject button on the CD player, “that I was discus champion at my high school?”

It all happens at once: She pulls the trigger, I’ve got the CD in my hands, I fling it into the air between me and the barrel, the bullet is deflected toward the ceiling, I grab the bonus DVD from the Amy Grant pack (the one with the “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” video on it), now I’m spinning it into the air, now it’s cracking across her forehead, now she’s on the carpet and there’s blood.  

“By the way,” I say, as the police haul her away in handcuffs, as they praise my finely honed disc-throwing skills, as I receive the $10,000 reward for apprehending a wanted felon, as the reporter from The Empty Closet asks me again to spell my name. 

She turns for a brief minute. 

“Merry Christmas!”  

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.  


Currently   listening :
  Home for Christmas  
  By Amy Grant
  Release date: 06 October, 1992     

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The NERVOUS STOMACH Series: Ego-Strategy 12 – LAW & ORDER
Current mood: Sci-Fi Zone

I’m forty-one and watching Law & Order: SVU.  It’s a good episode: Mariska’s hair looks especially fine.  I mute the commercials ’cause they drive me crazy. That’s when I see the flash outside the window.

I climb up the stairs so I can see through the skylight. There’s a strange glow under the roofing tiles — the new ones that the cute construction boy just put on a few days ago. As I watch, a grey glowing ooze starts flowing from beneath the shinges. It’s fluid and moving — it approaches the skylight; I can make out three pale spots — maybe eyes? — forming in the ooze.  I “hear” their violence in my head — I sense the spots want skin.  Mine.    

I scream — a girly, high-pitched wail — but I’m more worried than scared. Worried for my partner and puppy dog, just one floor below me, watching Boston Legal. Worried for the neighbors who drink martinis on their porch every evening and invite us to swim in their pool. Worried for all the people in my town who have had their roof tiles recently replaced.

I jump for the switch that automatically activates the skylight. It starts to churn open. The grey slime oozes through the open crack. When it’s about halfway through, I hit the reverse button on the skylight control. The window closes with the same slow assurance, squeezing the slime in two with a very satisfying squiching sound. A high-pitched shriek — like the sound the steering wheel on my Jeep makes when I turn it too hard to the left — fills the room. The three pale spots plop onto the rug. I grab the empty bathroom trash and scoop the goo into it. The spots look up at me, but I just take the trash out to the curb.

The next day, I hire a new cute construction boy to replace my roofing tiles — just the gooey ones.

For FUN, I put my stuff at
For SERIOUS, I put my stuff at 
I invite you to visit my stuff.  


Currently   listening :
  Calling Occupants   Of Interplanetary Craft
  By Carpenters