Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Crybabies Room

All these technological breakthroughs! Blu-Ray! 3D! 4G! Duane Eddy’s “40 Miles of Bad Road”! But what does it get you in the end? I have been a guest in the homes of wealthy audiophiles, and privileged to hear some remarkable stereo systems, but I'm quite sure I will go my grave never having enjoyed the sound of music more than on the monophonic radio in my pal Dave’s ’58 Chevy, in we which drove around and around and around during Christmas vacation in our senior year of high school, listening to the best music in the world — the Righteous Bros’ “Lovin’ Feelin”, The Beatles’ “I Feel Fine”, The Supremes’ “Come See About Me”, The Kinks’ “You Really Got Me”, The Zombies’ “She’s Not There” — while looking for girls (and secretly hoping we wouldn’t find any, as we were too shy to speak to the stuck-up bitches.)

I look forward to watching the forthcoming Super Bowl on a high-definition TV with more square footage than some hotel rooms I’ve stayed in, but have no expectation of enjoying it more than I did the first Super Bowl — the Ice Bowl!— which I watched on a 19-inch black and white TV. I saw Avatar in 3D a few weeks ago, and actually enjoyed it considerably less than I remember enjoying Disney’s Johnny Tremain at the Loyola Theater in the Westchester district of Los Angeles when I was 10.

God, the Loyola, with its 60-foot high neon swan outside, and its glorious Art Deco lobby, and its million square yards of red velvet in the auditorium, in which you were shown to your seat by a uniformed usher with a flashlight! The Loyola, joy of man’s desiring, with its magic show between halves of a double feature! They had what I think was called a crybabies room, soundproofed to muffle the tantrums of ill-behaved kiddies, but teenaged smart alecs had made it entirely their own by the time of my earliest visits. A modern multiplex would be doing well to inspire a thousandth the sense of occasion a place like the Loyola did, and the whole culture is the poorer for it. Keep your digital projection and 3D. Give me red velvet and Art Deco.

Speaking of snide teens shouting what they fancied to be witticisms to the characters on screen from the safety of the Loyola’s crybaby room, a free autographed copy of my life-changing latest album Sorry We’re Open to anyone who can explain why black movie audiences talk back to the actors on screen and white ones don’t?

And while we’re at it, why do black music lovers generally like a lot more bass than whites? I can only guess it’s because the lower frequencies are more ominously masculine, more evocative of natural disasters, that hip hop fan motorists turn up the bass in their lowered ’61 Chevies so high as to threaten the windows of every home or commercial establishment past which they drive. Arriving home from grocery shopping after being stopped at a traffic signal beside one of these characters, I’ve found cracked half of the dozen eggs with which I’d conspired to make a delicious omelette. One of these times, I won’t be surprised if one of my fillings is loosened.

In other entertainment-related news, one of this blog’s devoted fans was kind enough to send me for Xmas the Best of the Dean Martin Show boxed set of DVDs, which turns out to contain some wonderful surprises, my favorite being the show in which Dino’s guests included the beat authors Wm. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg, and Ginsberg’s lover Peter Orlovsky. In sketches based on Ginsberg’s poem Howl and and Burroughs’ novel Naked Lunch, Ginsberg and Orlovsky show themselves to be good sports, real troupers, but Burroughs is self-conscious and wooden. When Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara makes a surprise appearance, entering from a closet in one scene, Ginsberg is taken aback at first, but plays along, while Orlovsky, presumably offended by McNamara’s role in the escalation of the war in Viet Nam, storms off stage. It isn’t entirely clear if Burroughs even recognizes McNamara, though Bob's defiantly retro center-parted hair and wire-rim spectacles had become nearly iconic by that time. Later in the show, singing "Danny Boy" with his host, Burroughs reveals himself to have had a gorgeous clear tenor and deft way with a musical phrase. Highly recommended!

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Friday, January 29, 2010

Hello. Suicide Prevention Hotline...Can You Hold?

Over the years, a long succession of psychotherapists have suggested that engagement in volunteer work — focusing on the misery of others for a change — might make me less prone to the debilitating depressions to which I’ve been prone since childhood. I signed up a few months ago to be a Big Brother, but talking to the 14-year-old with whom they tried to pair me was like trying to talk to the sidewalk, and I couldn’t imagine that frustration having a palliative effect on my despair. I had hoped to fill a void in the life of a kid lacking a male mentor, and not to try to psychologically rehabilitate one who seemed to need a shrink a lot more than a surrogate dad. When I expressed my misgivings, Big Brother said they understood perfectly (one of them had met the boy, and had an experience identical to my own), and then promptly stopped returning my calls.

Thus, I volunteered for the Dutchess County Suicide Prevention Hotline. For the first few weeks — during which I persuaded a paralegal in Fishkill, a personal trainer in Wappingers Falls, a Subaru mechanic in Wappingers Falls, and a Web developer in Hopewell Junction not to end it all — it was deeply rewarding. But then I began to question the fundamental precept of such hotlines — that all prospective suicides should be dissuaded as a matter of course. How did I know for sure, as I coaxed the personal trainer off the ninth floor window ledge from which he claimed to be about to hurl himself, that he wasn’t a belligerent homophobe, for instance, or a racist, or misogynist? What if the Subaru mechanic had grown rich replacing timing belts that had another 60,000 miles on them? What if the purported Web developer were a child molester, or Dick Cheney, trying to hide in the Hudson Valley from his conscience?

It was a good thing they had me on the graveyard shift (which of course we were forbidden to refer to as such), between midnight and eight, with a woman, Caroline, who commonly drank herself into a stupor. Drinking on the job was in extreme contravention of hotline answerer guidelines, but so was making callers answer a bunch of questions that I’d formulated to determine if they were worth saving. We agreed early on to not notice each other’s rule-breaking.

All our calls turned out to be recorded for the ominous Training Purposes we all hear about so often. Herewith, a transcript of the one for which I was fired, to whatever extent one may be fired from a job for which he’s receiving no pay.

JM: Hello, Suicide Preventine Hotline. We’re here for you.

CALLER Thank God someone is. The loneliness has been unendurable.

JM: From where are you calling?

CALLER The Newburgh-Beacon Bridge. I’m on my Blackberry. I just pulled over. I can’t take it anymore. I’m going to jump.

JM: Can you describe what’s made you so desperate?

CALLER I was laid off 14 months ago. Since then I haven’t even been invited in for a job interview. My husband left me three weeks ago for his secretary; the kids all side with him. My doctor’s receptionist called this morning to say he needs to talk to me in person about the results of the lab work he ordered last week. The Check Engine light has been on for the past two months. I can’t afford to renew my eHarmony account. I can’t sleep. I can feel a lump in one of my breasts. I just spent three hours sitting at the bar at the Holiday Inn and nobody asked to buy me a drink. I just can’t take it anymore.

JM: It does sound as though a great many things are stressing you. I can understand that life is very difficult at this moment.

CALLER Unbearably difficult! I can’t take it anymore!

JM: Well, if you’ll just answer a couple of questions, we’ll see if we can’t make you feel more hopeful, OK? First, how do you feel about gay marriage? Do you think it should be allowed?

CALLER What’s gay marriage got to do with my being overwhelmed by feelings of hopelessness? [pause] I’m for it. Live and let live. That’s my motto.

JM: Great. A good start! How about the separation of church and state? Do you think there should be prayer in the public schools, or that intelligent design ought to be presented as a theory on a par with evolution?

WOMAN For crying out loud! Why are you asking me this stuff? [pause] No, I think the Christian right is a major blight on the American national character.

JM: Perfect! Just one more question, and this is kind of a tricky one. John Edwards has been exposed as a Clintonian horndog. Even so, given that he embraced progressivism far more than any other candidate in the 2008 presidential campaign, would you not, in a nightmare scenario, be more inclined to vote for him than for Sarah Palin in 2012?

Hello? Are you there? Hello?

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Thursday, January 28, 2010

A Busful of the Morbidly Obese

I should have spoken out earlier, well before health insurance reform found itself in its current jeopardy, but cowardice kept my lips sealed; I have found over the years that it isn’t a great idea to antagonize the powerful and ruthless, and these people are both. I am coming forward now, though. If this is my last journal entry, I ask only that my grave be kept clean and my memory revered.

For nearly a year in the early 80s, Scott Brown, the Senator-elect from Massachusetts, the guy whose replacement of the late Ted Kennedy means that the Democrats will no longer be able to keep the Republicans from filibustering, and I were lovers — homosexual lovers, lovers whose love Leviticus 18:22 emphatically forbade.

Like so many others, I first became aware of Scotty (my pet name for him; his for me was Johnny) after he posed for Cosmopolitan magazine. I was between heterosexual relationships at the time, lonely and confused. Jesus had spoken to me quite audibly at one point years before, but had then taken to mumbling, and finally become inaudible; I see now that he was testing my faith. I see now that I failed the test. This is a shame I shall live with for the rest of my days, or until I fall prey to Alzheimer’s.

I was reading Cosmo only for its articles. I would read "10 Things to Whisper to Him Just Before He Ejaculates That Will Make Him Your Sex Slave", for instance, and just mentally reverse all the pronouns. When I saw Scott’s photo spread, don’t imagine that I was transfixed. He wasn’t as cute as Burt Reynolds. He lacked Burt’s cocksure smirk. He lacked Burt’s irresistible furriness.

But then I saw him at the Boston disco where I would occasionally drop in for a cold beer or a couple of poppers in those days of loneliness and confusion, and realized the Cosmo photos hadn’t done him justice. He asked me to dance. I didn’t see any harm in it. After a couple of hours, he asked if I’d enjoy seeing his collection of Tom of Finland lithographs. I didn’t see any harm in it. Once back at his apartment, he asked if he could sodomize me. I’d had a lot more beer over the course of the evening than prudence would have poured, and didn’t see the harm in it. It hurt — this was before I began getting regular (every five years or so) prostate exams — but it felt so right.

We became inseparable. He was just starting law school at the time. I would bring him cups of hot chocolate while he studied. He thought it might be fun to pretend we were inmates in a maximum security correctional facility; he was now sufficiently comfortable with me to admit that he’d long fantasized about being the “daddy” in such a setting. What this turned out to mean was that he wanted me to wear makeup and tight cutoffs and to do his laundry. I’d been a member of a sort of a glam rock group at one point, so the makeup wasn’t a problem. I was already doing the laundry.

It wasn’t as though I didn’t still have an occasional heterosexual fantasy, mind you. Sometimes I thought about plugging Morgan Fairchild, for instance, making her gasp and moan, mussing her perfect coiffure.

After he passed the bar, we got harder-core. Scotty bought both of us leather outfits, and we became friends with a couple who’d converted their rumpus room into a dungeon. I wasn’t crazy about getting burned with cigarettes while suspended upside down and handcuffed from the ceiling, and I won’t deny that I had misgivings about Scotty trading me that one time to an outlaw motorcycle gang for a case of Michelob Lite, but the rest of it was kind of fun. The Property of Master Scotty tattoo on my chest is a constant reminder — at least on days that I look at myself in the mirror while shirtless -- of those happy times.

I think we’d both known they wouldn’t last forever. The beginning of the end came when the supervising partner at the corporate law firm where he worked after first passing the bar told him he’d better get himself married, and quick, if he ever wanted to make partner. I drifted back into heterosexuality — not, mind you, with Morgan, who not only didn’t return my calls, but just had to get that offensive, gratuitous restraining order against me. It would have killed her to meet for coffee? The realization that I’d allowed myself to have been an unwitting foot solder in the homosexual war on American decency hit me like a busful of the morbidly obese.

All I have left are the tat, some cigarette burn scars, and my memories. But what memories!

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Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Last Night on American Idol

Last night on American Idol, Chris (no relation to Holly) Golightly, the last person to sing for the judges at the Los Angeles auditions, was first shown trudging disconsolately beside a train track, to the accompaniment of a poignant piano theme. He recounted to host Ryan Seacrest that he’d lived in a great many foster homes over the course of his short life, and had become accustomed to there being nobody to exclaim, “Attaboy!” if he did something noteworthy at school. But after the judges begrudgingly voted him through to the forthcoming Hollywood round, he left the audition room, and was greeted outside it by two friends — a rare misstep on the part of the show’s shamelessly manipulative director, whom I have now decided to replace.

Had I directed last night’s show, I’d have asked poor Chris’s friends to make themselves scarce, so that he would have no one with whom to share his moment of elation. He would emerge whooping and hooting triumphantly, as nearly all the golden ticket winners do, only to remember that he’s all alone in the universe — alone and unloved. The despairing piano theme would be heard anew, louder, as he tried in vain to blink back his tears. He would turn away from the camera in shame, and then fall to his knees, his body wracked by sobs.

The audition room will be rigged under my direction so that any singer indulging in melisma, the Mariah Carey-popularized trick of stretching a single syllable of a word over multiple notes for the purpose of inspiring listeners to exclaim, “Dude!” will receive a painful electric shock. For me, melisma is miasma.

The show is much more enjoyable in the pre-Hollywood audition stage, if you ask me, than when they all start mewling “All By Myself “and “Without You” and “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “A Natural Woman” and so on. But it would be even more enjoyable if not so predictable. You can bet the farm that every contestant revealed before auditioning to be A Devoted Parent or Son/Daughter is going to be good, and that if there’s something wrong with their kid or kids (autism seems to be big this season), terrific — maybe even terrific enough to inspire that pompous ditz Kara, perhaps America’s worst popular songwriter, to soar to new heights of inanity in her endorsement. “One million bazillon percent yes!”

Should any judge try to award an auditionee a yes vote exceeding 100 percent after I take charge, he or she will receive a painful electric shock, as they will too for using the adjective authentic for a singer with a drawl or cowboy hat. Should Clive Davis make an appearance, he will, if he offers a contestant such sage advice, gleaned from his 143 years in The Business, as, “Really feel the lyric,” be pelted with rotten vegetables and used condoms. An auditionee who humbly confirms that she is indeed a pastor, and who then, in response to the question What are you going to sing for us?, replies, "Nine Inch Nails’ 'Fuck You Like An Animal', will immediately be declared the Season 9 winner.

Should that corpulent windbag Randy Jackson, whom we think of in For All In Tents Towers as Dawgman Babydude, address a female contestant as man, he will receive a painful electric shock. Should he arrange his chubby fingers in a gesture presumably recognizable only to persons who think of themselves as one another’s... homies, he will be plunged into a vat of boiling miasma, or forced to have lunch with Clive Davis.

It’s high time, I think, that Simon Cowell stop being thought of as the show’s villain, especially in the audition stages; it isn’t he, but Jackson, who loudly mocks the comically hapless while they’re singing. It is Si, not Jackson, who commonly says something pleasurably wry. It is Jackson who’s proud of having played briefly in Journey, the mere thought of whom makes any reasonable person wince. And will someone please tell the guy that it's nonsensical, while sitting in Dallas, say, to shout, "Welcome to Hollywood"? One cannot actually welcome someone to a place neither is at the moment of welcoming!

Under my stewardship, there will be no more weeks during which all the contestants sing a Motown, disco, or Beatles song. Instead we will have death metal, shoegaze, and Sigur Ros weeks. The mark of a genuinely terrific singer is being able to sound terrific in Icelandic.

From this point forward, only males will be allowed to sing "Son of a Preacher Man" at their auditions, and any over-25 contestant who, in response to one of the judges asking, “So this is your last shot, isn’t it?” replies, “Fuck no, Jack; I’m going to give it to 40,” will immediately be whisked into the Final 24.

The asking judge will, of course, receive a painful electric shock.

[Sorry We're Open isn't my last shot; Anthems of Self-Loathing is forthcoming later in 2010! Facebookers: Read more like this and subscribe here.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Mystery Man in Brangelina Split Named

What you’ve heard about Angelina and Brad is true. They’re breaking up. I know because I’m the guy she’s leaving him for.

I can guess what you’re thinking. “He was sort of cute in a saturnine semitic way decades ago, but time hasn’t been kind to him.” The fact is that after five years of You-Know-Who, though, Ange has had her fill of pretty. Now she wants mordant and depressive and much older. She wants what she used to have with Billy Bob Thornton, except without the weird stuff. I haven’t asked her to get my name tattooed on the most intimate part of herself. I haven’t given her a vial of my blood to wear around her neck. All I’ve given here are a corsage, and my heart. I have a rare blood type.

We met three months ago in the small produce section of the only supermarket on Beacon’s Main Street, Key Food. It’s really expensive. Most ghetto supermarkets are expensive. Beacon isn’t a ghetto. There are as many fine artists here as welfare queens or crack dealers, and as many drag queens as welfare queens. If you want ghetto, you have to cross the river to Newburgh. But nobody wants ghetto, not really. The slurring white punks in their baggy pants and backward baseball caps and necklaces may think they do, but they don’t. As I write this, the river is frozen.

She was looking at onions. There were red ones and the other, more typical kind. I can’t imagine that she does her own cooking, but it was none of my business. I figured she had it up to here with perfect strangers questioning her. She noticed me staring. She smiled. Her famous lips looked even more lubricious than in photographs. I wanted to kiss them, but I gave her space.

I pretended to need pasta. It was in a different part of the store. She followed me. Don’t think I wasn’t flattered. There were other men doing their grocery shopping, lonely, single men. A man with a woman wouldn’t have shopping for groceries. He’d have been at home fixing things. He'd have been hunting or fishing.

She asked if I had a favorite shape. I said I’d always liked Jayne Mansfield’s. She said, “No, smartass, for pasta, I mean.” There was a twinkle in her eye when she said it. I said but what about You-Know-Who? She said not to look a gift horse in the mouth. I filled her. Neither of us smoked afterward. We have too much self-respect.

She liked that I’d dated famous actresses in the past. Morgan Fairchild and I were an item at one point. There have been others. Famous actresses like a man who doesn’t ask for their autograph. They like men they can’t intimidate, and who are unintimidatd enough to tease them. Jen used to love my pronouncing her surname Anus-town. She'd pretend otherwise, but her laughter gave her away.

She introduced me to her six children. I had a child of my own once. I didn’t get along only with Maddox and Pax and Knox, but also with the ones lacking an x at the end, Zahara, Shiloh, and Vivienne. I asked if she and You-Know-Who had considered naming one of the twins Barbecue since they were so crazy about unusual names. She didn’t get it. “Barbecue Pitt,” I said.

The look she gave me made me feel chastened. There used to be a famous restaurant in Beverly Hills called Chasen’s. Ange’s estranged dad, Jon Voight, might have gone there with his agent. Ange was probably too young to have been there. They were famous for their chili, of all things. Elizabeth Taylor had a bathtubful of it flown to Rome when she was shooting Cleopatra. She thought immersing herself in it kept her skin soft. This was well before Michael Jackson. Some people think Ange would make a good Cleopatra. Some people used to think You-Know-Who would make a good Achilles. No one ever thought Michael Jackson would.

We’re taking it one day at a time, though neither of us is an alcoholic. I’m writing tersely today, with almost no adverbs. I haven’t even mentioned my huge backlog of unjustly unproduced screenplays. There will be time for that later, or there won’t. It isn’t mine to know.

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Monday, January 25, 2010

The Only Republican I've Ever Liked

In the spirit of full disclosure, I will admit now that between giving up on rock and roll and becoming the worst-selling author of a book about The Kinks (to whose post-60s music I am not flattered to hear my own compared, and about whom I want never to speak or even hear ever again), I briefly supported myself as a kidnapper.

Vacationing in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in the early fall of 1983, my first wife and I signed up for the horseback excursion our hotel offered. During the otherwise pleasant outing, a jowly, pink, wire-rimmed glasses guy whose bloatedness presumably suggested prosperity was snatched from among us with his wife by a quartet of what I supposed might have been called banditos with rotting teeth and intimidating glares. At first, I hoped it was some sort of charade intended to make the experience more vivid, but there was no mistaking the genuineness of Jowlyboy’s terrified whimpering as the banditos’ leader vigorously sodomized him right in front of us.

When they’d gone, our tour leader, who had some typical latino given name that I don’t recall — Miguel, something along those line — explained that, while the Bahía de Banderas tourism office had long been looking into ways of curtailing such abductions, they were still fairly commonplace. He hoped we would enjoy the balance of our ride, and we did.

On getting home to Los Angeles and finding nothing in the mailbox but a lot of form letters from editors thanking me for my interest in their periodicals, but lamenting that what I’d submitted wasn’t quite right for them, I resolved to return to Mexico and try my own hand at kidnapping.

I was lucky enough, within 10 days of essentially becoming a fixture at a Starbucks in Mexico City’s high-crime Iztapalapa district known to be a favorite meeting place of kidnappers, to fall in with a gang of similarly disgruntled fellow American expats. Their leader, or jefe, J. Ronald Feldman, had been a very successful intellectual property lawyer in the Twin Cities until realizing that you go around only once in life, and that his own had been pretty low on excitement. He’d grown a Fu Manchu (or, as he preferred, Sgt. Pepper-era John Lennon) mustache, learned a bit of Spanish, developed what would eventually prove a fatal thirst for artisanal tequila, and established himself as one of Mexico’s top human traffickers.

The Mexican media’s portrayal of him as a brutal sociopath notwithstanding, he was a patient and generous mentor to me, and within six months of my first latte in Iztapalapa, I was leading my own crew. You can imagine my elation on discovering that our first victim, L. Powell Bruton, on whom we descended as he left a swanky restaurant on Av. Presidente Masarik in the Polanco district, was an occasional advisor to Ronald Reagan, a former golf partner of Richard Nixon, and presumably obscenely rich.

The problem was that he was also a good egg, good-humored, brave, not a whiner. A lot of the people I’d snatched as part of the Feldman gang had started out threatening us, saying things like, “You have no idea how much hot water you’ve gotten yourself into, pal,” as though in a Ridley Scott film, and then, when that didn’t work, begging weepily, making real nuisances of themselves (which, of course, was the whole idea). Pow (he explicitly forbade us to call him Mr. Bruton), though, took the whole thing with remarkable grace, saying, “Hey, I understand you fellows are just doing what you think you need to,” even after learning that we would be sending his attorney one of his fingers every extra day we had to wait for the $18.75 million ransom we’d demanded.

He also did his best to help me understand that he’d left very strict instructions for…his people never to negotiate with kidnappers, but I, in that way I sometimes have — in that way I have far, far too often — didn’t take it to heart. Eight days after his snatching, he had only his thumbs left, and we not a nickel in ransom money, but even then he retained his sense of humor. “A heckuva lot of good opposable thumbs are going to do me,” he chuckled at one point while I cursed the non-ringing telephone and motionless fax machine, “now that you’ve left me nothing to oppose them with!” That night, when I finally broke into tears of frustration, he said, “Hey, come on now, John. Nobody’s going to hire me as a typist or piano player, but I can still hitchhike, and in both the USA and UK!” I can honestly tell you he was the only Republican I’ve ever liked.

Within six months, I’d returned to California, swallowed my pride, and myself taken as a job as a typist. Sometimes in this wacky world, people get exactly what’s coming to them.

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Sunday, January 24, 2010

Correctional Officer of the Week

Recently, when I wrote about my experiences as an inmate of a New York correctional facility, I hoped that most readers would recognize my remarks as satirical. I have never committed a felony — at least one for which I have been successfully prosecuted, or, indeed, prosecuted at all — and have never spent a moment of my life behind bars. It was in front of them — as a correctional officer (that is, guard) in the criminal alien detention facility outside Stoughton, Wisconsin, that I spent seven months in 2007 and 2008.

One can’t really make ends meet on the starting salary offered by the Corrections Corporation of America — most criminal aliens are looked after by CCA and other private contractors hired by the Department of the Interior — so nearly all of us new “screws” had to supplement our income by dealing contraband to the inmates. In addition to such staples as heroin, methamphetamines, pornography, and Celine Dion CDs, a lot of my inmate customers wanted tapes of Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadien hockey games. While the vast majority of the criminal aliens incarcerated in America crossed the Mexican border illegally, you see, the facility at which I worked housed mostly Canadians, who’d sneaked across our northern border to escape their country’s health care system.

Standing Water, the leader of Cree Nation, composed of inmates descended from Canada’s largest indigenous group, had a much more specific request — for foundation that would complement his bitch Running Water’s skintone. A chiropodist in civilian life, the small, frail Running Water had apparently had no recourse but to impersonate Miley Cyrus in exchange for Standing’s protection. By candlelight, she actually looked very presentable, if nothing like La Cyrus.

There weren’t African-Canadian inmates, and thus not much call for an Aryan Brotherhood, but a couple of prolifically pockmarked diehards met every Thursday evening in the rec room to watch CMT and give one another really ugly tattoos. In exchange for a couple of bottles of cheap vodka distilled not from potatoes, but from asphalt, they would pretend to enjoy some of my own country-flavored songs, some of which appear on my indispensable new album Sorry We’re Open. Product placement!

Being a correctional officer is, of course, a dream job for a sadist such as myself. I loved being able to beat inmates capriciously, and to force the youngest and cutest to perform unnatural acts, either with me or with fellow inamtes. Perhaps most cruelly, I would stand outside the cell of an inmate I knew to be very proud of his country’s contributions to popular music and assert until he banged his head against the wall in frustration that whatever good music Joni Mitchell, Neil Young, Leonard Cohen, Shania Twain, and Rush may have made over the years isn’t enough to offset the first Alanis Morrisette album. That awful rancorous yodeling! Has anything — Kiss, Motley Crue, the Grateful Dead, all of hair metal, all of The Clash except “London Calling”, all of grunge, and all of gangsta rap aside — ever been worse?

Don’t imagine they didn’t try to retaliate. Don’t imagine they didn’t succeed; Canadians are capable of greater guile than we sometimes give them credit for. After I’d been in uniform a little over three months, the inmates voted me Correctional Officer of the Week, and suddenly I was shunned not only by my colleagues, but by people in the community at large. On at least two occasions shortly thereafter, fellow guards replaced the contents of my Thermos with urine. And one night when I went to Home Depot for a part for the upstairs toilet, none of the orange-vested brigade would deign to help me find it. The kids were harassed on the school bus, and someone put a plastic bagful of dog feces in our mailbox. At Walmart, the missus was Maced by a fellow shopper who bitterly recounted having died in an emergency room that was busy treating Canadians.

I saw little recourse but to abandon my career in corrections almost before it had begun, and to go back to graphic design.

[Just holler if you'd like to read the short story from which this was adapted. Facebookers: Read more zany essays just like this and subscribe here.[