Guest Billy Bob Wire Speaks Out on Guns

Hey, folks, how you doing? Billy Bob Wire here, sitting in for my second cousin Bob, who asked me to write a little something from a gun owner’s point of view for his blog today. (He’s only my second cousin by marriage, but we recently found out we have the same granddaddy. Go figure.)

See, my cousin Bob ain’t what you’d call a ‘gun enthusiast.’ That poor ol’ boy just don’t know much about firearms. So, he called me up at my home in Sula, Montana last week, to see if I’d provide what he called an ‘alternative viewpoint.’

I told Bob that I’d be happy do it, but I didn’t have a whole lot of time on my hands just then, on account of I had to make several trips into Hamilton, and a drive up to Kalispell, to get my hands on as many assault rifles as I could. See, it was the day after the tragic election, and you probably know that Barack Hussein Obama is a big anti-gun nut. Voted on all kinds of gun bans and stuff when he was a Senator in Chicago. Well, you can bet your camo underpants that he’s gonna probably pull that same weepy liberal crap once he gets into the White House, so I figure I better get right with Jesus, and buy all the guns I can.

Hell, it don’t even seem to bother Barack Hussein Obama that he’ll be trampling all over our Second Amendment rights. It says right there in the Bible, that all Americans have the right to bear arms and create a militia. (We actually have a kick-ass militia in Darby, although most of us had been booted out of the Freemen and lost our drivers licenses on account of drunk driving, so we had to arm our militia with paintball guns. We might not be able to kill any insurgents when they come through the woods, but buddy, we’ll make ‘em easy to spot.)

Anyways, I know how Barack Hussein Obama kept saying through his whole campaign that he wasn’t gonna take anybody’s guns away. Well, not without a gun, he ain’t! You see what I’m getting at? Everyone needs to have a gun. It ain’t to start fights or rob people or anything like that. It’s for self-protection, pure and simple. If everyone had a gun on them at all times, there wouldn’t be no more of these school shootings, for one thing. Can you imagine? One of them outcast brainiacs comes into MY classroom and pulls out a nine out of his overcoat, well, I’d say hold it right there, Dim Sum, while I blast you full of freedom holes.

That’s why I keep no less than four loaded stoppers in my bedroom. My missus, Janie “Taut” Wire, keeps a Smith & Wesson police service revolver under her pillow. Used to belong to her daddy, who was a cop in San-de-damn-iego in the sixties. He passed away a while back, and knowing that her daddy’s gun is in the bed with us while we’re getting busy, well, it gets a little weird. But it’s a small price to pay, because the day will come, my friends, when some drugged-out crack head will climb over our concertina wire fence, disable the Brinks electronic security alarm, jimmy the six deadbolts on the front door, outsmart the motion detector system, and break down the steel door to our bedroom so’s he can rape my wife and shoot my dog. Well, bring it on, Mr. Crime Doer, ‘cause I’ll be waiting here with my fully chromed Sig Sauer P229 and a mile long boner.

Now, I’ve been keeping up with all the news during this last couple of years, mostly Guns ‘n Ammo magazine and Fox News, just to make sure I’m getting a wide variety of perspectives. Evidently, there seems to be some question among laymen (people who don’t own guns), as to why somebody would need a semi-automatic assault rifle, like the AR-15, or maybe a sleek Uzi. My answer to that question is, are you effin’ shitting me? Because it FEELS good, you moron! Listen, a lot of us gun owners ain’t got a whole lot going for us, but when we go out to the quarry and blast the shit out of a dirt pile with enough lead to make our own personal Yucca Mountain, well, there just ain’t a feeling like that in the world. Hell, just thinking about it puts a lump in my shorts.

And them flash supressors and silencers and 500-round clips? If you’re a hunter, I don’t have to tell you how crafty them elk and deer have been getting. If you want to make sure and hit your target within 50 feet of your truck, you have to even the odds a little, that’s all.

You know, I might not have any idea what the First Amendment, or the Fiftieth Amendment, or any of them other Amendments is about, but by God, the Second Amendment is the one I recite every night when I’m saying my prayers. If the last eight years have taught me anything about living in the U.S. of A., it’s that fear and paranoia are healthy and necessary, and there ain’t no way I’m facing our bright new future without a shit load of automatic weapons.

I pledge allegiance to the NRA, and the United States of America. In that order. Anybody who don’t think that’s patriotic, well, they can speak with my attorneys, Mr. Winchester and Mr. Remington.

Posted in In the News, Montana, Politics, Uncategorized | Comments Off

You Like Me. You Really Like Me.

Trying out this new service. They will add 500 real likes to my Facebook music page. Will that help me sell more records? No. But hey, who doesn’t want to be liked?

Posted in Uncategorized | Comments Off

Nobody Likes the Surprise Vegetarian

Let’s get this out of the way right off the bat: I don’t have a problem with vegetarians. I don’t have a problem with vegans. Whatever people decide to eat or not eat is their business, not mine. I don’t give a shit if you insist on eating only organic bamboo root that was fertilized with the pristine shells of virgin quail eggs that were swaddled in a Panda’s vagina. I’ll even pass you the ketchup.

But if you’re the kind of self-absorbed vegetarian who assumes that other people don’t mind changing up their menu at the last minute and scrambling to suit your previously-unannounced dietary needs, you can go pound sand.

The surprise vegetarian is worse than the proselytizing vegetarian or the sanctimonious vegetarian. He’s worse than the hypocritical vegan and even the strident permaculturist. The surprise vegetarian and his close cousin the entitled vegetarian think nothing of springing their meatless lifestyle on unsuspecting hosts, and then expect them to provide accordingly.

Adult vegetarians rarely do this, because adult vegetarians either have the consideration to give their host a heads up, or they’ve simply gone hungry enough times to learn to be prepared.

Bring some bean burgers to the barbecue if that’s what you eat. I’ll cook that shit right up. But if you arrive empty-handed and announce with smug satisfaction that you no longer eat meat, well, I hope you like the taste of lawn. You know where Whole Foods is. We’ll save you a beer.

Parents, if your kids have decided to go vegetarian, teach them to cook some vegetarian fare right now. Don’t start bringing them to social engagements and letting them get used to the idea that the world will always bend around them. Also, if you cook your vegetarian kid a separate meal from the rest of your family every time, you’re setting them up for some tough going when they get out in the Real World.

If a person is truly committed to a meatless or vegan diet, he or she will probably take great delight in learning to cook satisfying, tasty meals. Take me, for instance. I eat meat. But I don’t eat bell peppers. I’ve learned to cook satisfying, tasty meals that contain no bell pepper. But would I go to a friend’s house for dinner and reject their meal because it has bell pepper? No, I would not. Number one, I’m not a gaping asshole. B, I would do the polite thing and discreetly pick out all the pieces of bell pepper and place them under the rim of my plate. When the dishes were cleared at the end of the dinner, exposing a green ring of bell pepper bits in front of me, I would have a hearty laugh and blame it on the dog, who is a heavy drinker.

Don’t get me wrong—if your kid wants to be a vegetarian, that’s cool. They have to come from somewhere. Just make sure it’s not a fashion statement or a misguided attempt to be cool or hip or rebellious. A teenage vegetarian who comes home reeking of McRib is probably just going through a phase.

I live in Missoula, a place where hippies never really went out of style. You can’t swing a tempeh cat in this town without hitting a vegetarian. Most restaurants even offer a variety of vegan and vegetarian dishes. We all coexist. But you have to understand—and I’m looking at you, budding vegetarians—that if you avoid meat (or dairy or sugar or petroleum-based dessert toppings or whatever), the onus is on you to make that clear in advance if you’re invited to a meal. Reasonable people will probably just ask what they can fix for you, and not make a big deal of it. Hell, here’s five tempeh recipes right here.

But if I’ve spent the day making a fine pot of chili verde and you come over for dinner expecting me to drop everything so I can whip up some kind of tofu bullshit on the spot, you have a lot to learn about being a hippie.

Bob Wire photo for humor blog about vegetarian and vegan diets.

This is vegetarian lasagna, which I do not recommend.

Posted in Culture (or lack thereof), Family, Food, Health, Lifestyle, Montana, Parenthood | Tagged , , , | Comments Off

Fifty Shades of Brown

I just celebrated my 54th birthday, and like most men in their fifties, I am beginning to show some signs of wear and tear that tend to surface in middle age.

Specifically, I’m having trouble with my O-ring.

If you’re still reading this after that sentence, it’s probably safe to assume you are a middle aged man. Who else would want to hear about someone’s anal leakage?

Guys are funny. We’ll ignore this kind of problem as long as possible, until we’re forced to deal with it. The very phrase “anal leakage” can cause most dudes my age to cross their legs and change the subject. It’s not something we talk about, except perhaps when confronted by whoever does our laundry, or after a few shots of Jagermeister at a poker game. (“Hey, man, is anybody else dribbling from the doggie door?”)

In my case, it wasn’t as dramatic as “blowback” or “splatter,” just a bothersome amount of what appeared to be butt sweat. It had to come from somewhere, and there’s only one valve down there.

After a man hits fifty, any atypical developments in the poop chute are immediate cause for concern. The Big C looms large in our heads, and in our underpants. I took my leaky fart pipe to Dr. Nick for a look-see.

When I called for an appointment it wasn’t easy to tell the nurse why I needed to come in. “I’m having anal issues,” I said.

“Anal issues,” she said. You mean like OCD?” I knew she was fucking with me.

“Yeah, I want to make sure I’m not late for some guy sticking his finger up my butt.”

She checked the schedule. “Oh, it looks like we have an opening,” she giggled.

“Very funny,” I said. She gave me a time.

I arrived at Dr. Nick’s office the next day and felt like everybody was staring at me in the waiting room. I leafed through a People magazine, but my paranoia made me feel like I was reading Ass Masters.

Dr. Nick walked into the exam room, looking at my chart on his laptop. “How’s it going, Bob? Why are we seeing you today?”

“Well, you’re going to be seeing a lot more of me in a couple minutes,” I said. “I have sweat or something leaking out of my, uh, rectular area.”

“Oh,” he said, looking at me over his glasses. “Anal discharge. How old are you?” I told him. “It’s pretty common in guys your age. You know how you have to replace that rubber ring in your garden hose every couple of summers?”

“Well, sure, but I need to know if I should be worried about this. And how to stop it. I mean, you know, The Big C.”

He nodded gravely as he pulled on a blue latex glove. “Let’s have a look, shall we?”

"Say, Doc, are you wearing a Super Bowl Ring?"

“Say, Doc, are you wearing a Super Bowl Ring?”

After shedding my pants and boxers, I laid on my side on the exam table. He showed me a clear plastic cylindrical device with a tapered end. “I’m going to insert this and take a look around.” Sort of a bunghole diving bell.

“Knock yourself out,” I said, trying to relax my pucker string.

Then, weirdness.

“You have great sphincter tone,” he said after a few seconds.

“I’m not sure how to take that,” I said through clenched teeth.

“It’s a compliment.”

“Oh. Thanks.” I stifled a pucker.

“Have you taken any blows to the anus?” he asked.

“Not since the softball picnic. So what’s going on up there?”

He squinted through his head-mounted magnifier. “It’s hard to say. It looks like a tiny nativity scene.”

“Very funny, Radar. Do I have cancer?”

He shook his head. “No polyps. Nothing unusual, really.”

I tried to concentrate on the forest scene in the painting on the wall. Never noticed it before but all the trees looked like giant Sequoias.

He withdrew the device and ruled out hemorrhoids or anything other obvious culprit. There was a bit of vascular dilation, he said. “Kind of like varicose veins.”

“Gotcha,” I said, much relieved. “Only it’s much harder to put panty hose over it.”

He prescribed a corticosteroid that would quickly bring down the swelling, and hopefully stop the watery discharge. “You’ve had these before, right?”

“Sure. Cortisone is no big deal.”

“No, I mean suppositories.”

Um, no. In fact you’ve just boldly gone where no man has gone before, I told him. I generally treat that orifice as “exit only.”

I stopped at the pharmacy on the way home. Twice a day for fourteen days is what it said on the box. How bad could it be?

Let’s just say I learned a few things about my body. Number one, my rectum has a mind of its own. I tried to insert this thing, and I kept thinking about Christopher Walken in Pulp Fiction, telling a young Butch how he carried around his father’s watch in his ass for two years. People smuggle drugs like this. People bring contraband into prison like this. I assume this includes rolled up copies of Ass Masters.

The suppository was only the size of a Mike ‘n Ike, but the moment it entered the promised land, my sphincter sounded the alarm: “Intruder! Intruder!” The muscle tightened like a fist, expelling the waxy bullet.

(If you’re still reading at this point, I commend your fortitude or possibly your morbid curiosity.)

So I had to employ what we used to call back in the Penthouse Magazine days, “second knuckle insertion” to send this baby home. I finally got it far enough in so that when the drawbridge slammed shut, it was inside the castle.

It’s been four days. Eight doses. I won’t go so far as to say I’ll be reporting to spring training with the catchers, but it is getting easier. I can hardly wait to see what else the glorious years of middle age have in store for me.

Posted in Health, Manhood, Middle Age Blues, Uncategorized | Comments Off

Turn Out the Lights, Tea Party’s Over

(First published April 7, 2011)

Scrooge McDork, Scrooge McDuck, and Scrooge McDick.

Scrooge McDork, Scrooge McDuck, and Scrooge McDick.

 

Posturing Republicans and petulant Democrats continue to snap away at each other over the budget gap like two spoiled, bitchy Pomeranians. Meanwhile, thousands of soldiers who were foolish enough to think that the craven elected officials in Congress would stand behind them no matter what, continue to serve under the threat of having their paychecks withheld while the very country they’re fighting to protect threatens to collapse under the weight of a ping-pong game of financial ideology.

Everyone agrees that spending must be reduced, but President Obama and congressional Republicans seem unable to agree on how much to cut, and where the cuts are made. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Demos are attempting to trim this rump roast of spending with a tiny keychain Swiss Army knife, while Speaker of the House John Bohner’s ruthless Republicans seem eager to kowtow to Tea Party extremists by savagely hacking away at social programs while leaving their beloved sacred cow of a military budget fat, dumb and happy.

Yes, that’s a gross generalization, but as I see it, that’s how it has shaped up since the Republicans were able to bullshit voters into sweeping them into a House majority in 2010 by promising that they’d fix what their own party managed to demolish over the course of eight years under Bush/Cheney. Grandstanding Republican Senators and spineless Democrat leaders have been doing this repulsive budget dance for months, and now millions of their constituents are on the doorstep of not just inconvenience, but hardship.

If these bloviating yayhoos can’t get their tired act together by Friday, the government will lose its spending authority and be forced to shut down, and the economic recovery is going to hit the fan. Soldiers fighting the three (damn, did I just type “three”?) wars will not be issued paychecks. Yeah, we support our troops, we just don’t want to pay them. Tax returns will not be processed, putting the kibosh on one of the government’s revenue streams. Actually, the IRS will still accept tax payment, but no refunds will be issued on paper. You know, those refunds that are routinely spent on new jet skis, giant TVs and barbecue grills. You know, spending that would give the economy a sorely needed boost. Smooth move, financial geniuses.

The battered housing market will also suffer another setback. If the budget agreement is not reached by Friday, government-backed mortgages will not be approved, meaning a whole segment of Americans will be unable to fulfill the American dream by buying their own home that they can’t afford.

National Parks will close, drying up tourist traffic to all the small businesses that make a living from park visitors. This will indirectly cause a financial suckhole in India, China, Pakistan, and other overseas countries who make all those “I Got Gored At Yellowstone Park” t-shirts. Eight hundred thousand federal employees would be sent home. The CIA would shut down (or WOULD they? Nyuk nyuk). Social Security and Medicare payments would still be issued, although their offices will close. Well, that’s a relief. Your retired neighbor with the fat pension will be able to go ahead with that expansion on his cabin at the lake, but your brother serving in the Army in Afghanistan will have to tell his wife and kids back home that they’ll have to hit the food bank for a while.

Here’s a scary one: the flow of funding would stop at the National Institute of Health in Bethesda, Maryland. This is particularly bad news, because research into new health treatments would be suspended and we need to find some kind of medical breakthrough that would enable members of Congress to grow a conscience.

The mail will still be delivered, so the direct mail industry will still be able to pour millions of tons of paper into landfills. Air traffic controllers will still oversee plane traffic (if they can stay awake), prison staff will stay on the job to keep all those pot dealers behind bars, and the International Space Station will continue to operate (although delivery of Alien Babes magazine will be suspended).

Also, the Border Patrol and the war on drugs will continue to flail away, fully funded. That’s right. The Fed won’t issue a full paycheck to a soldier who’s been sent abroad to protect some oil interests, but they’ll continue to pay a bunch of Charles Bronsons in Jeeps to keep those skeery Meskins from coming into the U.S. and continuing their reign of terror by earning a living and raising a family. Whew! That was close.

These days Congress is fully deserving of their poor reputation among American voters. They are the personification of Scrooge McDuck, and their disconnect from the needs and priorities of Real People is tragic and disgusting. They all enjoy balls-out, full-on health coverage for themselves and their families; their jobs are guaranteed to last as long as they keep promising their ovine constituency that they’ll get a bigger slice of the pie without gaining any weight; and the school of remoras known as special interest lobbyists supply a constant flow of spenderoni to make sure that they never go wanting for a thing.

The problem is, we love having the wool pulled over our eyes. We want our camera-loving elected officials to tell us that Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny are real. While they suck down champagne and dine on Kobe ribeyes behind the scenes, Congressmen (and –women) produce the outrage or tears or anguish or whatever soap opera emotion is required at the press conference to show their constituents how much they care about (insert pork project here).

The system is busted because we’ve let it happen. We don’t elect people who are willing to give us the bad news. We elect people who love gravy. If we’re unwilling to make the sacrifices that our massive budget deficit requires, we’ll never see any improvement. We’ll just keep enabling and enriching the endless string of gladhanders and backslappers who populate Congress. Radical ideologies and skewed priorities have conspired to create this situation, and now the reality of the situation has come home to roost. Only this time, they’re not chickens in Washington. It’s a bunch of big, overfed, myopic turkeys.

Posted in Current Events, In the News, Politics | Comments Off

State Slogans Need an Upgrade

Out on the interstate, you see a variety of vehicles from nearly every state. That is one aptly named road, brother. While it’s not really fair to generalize about a state’s entire population (Alaskans are all hockey moms who sound like they’re from Wisconsin; everyone in Nebraska is boring, etc.), each state in the Union does project a certain identity.

They all try to control everyone’s perception of this identity by coming up with some bland state slogan like “Virginia Is For Lovers” or “Maryland, More Than You Can Imagine.” Well, you can have your incarcerated meth cookers stamp that Hallmark crap on a million license plates, but we all know all about your state. That goes for all fifty of you. Nobody gets off easy. I’m looking at you, Hawaii.

So why not have a little fun with it? I mean, if Mississippi is full of crackers and is proud of it, why not just call it the Saltine State? Hell, if a state can’t have a little chuckle at itself, it doesn’t deserve to be more than a District. I’m looking at you, Nation’s Capital.

Here are a few suggestions that could be sewn into the state flag or printed on bumper stickers that could be slapped on the rear end of every $600,000 RV that stops at a Cracker Barrel so its inhabitants can fill up on corn chowder and fried okra.

 

Here's one state that's on the right track.

Here’s one state that’s on the right track.

 

Hawaii: We’re not really off the coast of Texas, like it shows on the map.

Washington: We’re touching Canada’s bottom!

California: Can you be more Pacific?

Iowa: Hardcore Cornography.

Nevada: Beautiful beaches! Just no ocean.

Oklahoma: Panhandle? More like a manhandle!

Delaware: What did Delaware? I don’t know—Alaska. Ha ha.

Wyoming: Where the men are men. Even the women are men.

Alaska: You can see Canada from here.

New Jersey: Smells better than Old Jersey.

South Dakota: See Mount Rushmore. But take your time. Get it?

Oregon: Gateway to Idaho.

New York: What are you lookin’ at?

Arizona: Yeah but it’s a dry heat.

Kansas: Give us a wave as you’re flying over!

Utah: Brigham Young, and bring ‘em soon.

Rhode Island: The taint of New England.

Michigan: Toronto lost us in a poker game.

Florida: Yes, it looks like a penis. We know.

Texas: Houston, we have a problem. It’s Dallas.

Minnesota: Neighbor to both the Dakotas. Whoop de doo.

New Mexico: Still under warranty.

Colorado: Panhandle? We don’t need no stinking panhandle!

Louisiana: Visit beautiful New Orleans! Say hi to Aquaman for me.

Alabama: Eight year olds, dude.

Of course I can’t let my own state off the hook. The Last Best Place, the Treasure State, Big Sky Country, these best-foot-forward mottos all reflect the appeal of Montana’s natural abundance and wide open spaces. But to anyone who’s spent enough of their lives here to know the true character of this great state, there are some more fitting slogans out there.

Montana: Where fly fishermen are snobbier than Posh Spice at a Wal-Mart.

Montana: We’re workaholics! Only with alcohol.

Montana: A vast republic of right wing, conservative Christian gun nuts. And Missoula.

Montana: We’re like Paris in the 1920’s. I mean, technology-wise.

Montana: Thanks for visiting! Now get the hell out.

Posted in Culture (or lack thereof), Current Events, In the News, Lifestyle, Montana, Outdoors, Politics, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Back to School Shopping: Some Shortcuts

"Okay, listen up. My name is Mr. Wire. I'm you're gym class substitute teacher while Mr. Weiland is in reha...on vacation. Now, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball."

“Okay, listen up. My name is Mr. Wire. I’m you’re gym class substitute teacher while Mr. Weiland is in reha…on vacation. Now, if you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball.”

 

School’s just around the corner. Waiting for you with a baseball bat to shake down for your lunch money. That’s the way I always felt at the end of the summer, during most of my public education career. Summer was kid time, man, and we wrung out every drop of adventure, trouble, excitement, and near-death experience a kid could possibly have. If I didn’t start my new grade in the fall with at least three fresh scabs and some kind of infestation, well, I just didn’t try hard enough. But then came that day just after Labor Day, like a telegram from Jesus saying Santa Claus was dead: First day of school. At least we got to buy some fresh supplies. Seems like we always got by with a few pencils, a loose leaf binder, and a jar of delicious mucilage. But now the kids are issued a list of supplies by their school, and the list varies from school to school. Well, I took Rusty and Speaker to Wal-Mart today (yeah, I occasionally shop at Wal-Mart. I also drive there in my Hummer filled with illegally dyed diesel fuel, while chewing on McDonald’s burgers with extra trans fat, listening to CD’s of music I downloaded illegally, spitting on every cyclist I pass, and smoking a Camel straight with the windows up and three infants in the back seat. With no seat belts. Sue me). We couldn’t find the list for their school, so I shepherded them through the office supplies department, and we loaded up the cart with my version of the essentials. First off, about fifty spiral notebooks. Why? Because they were a dime apiece. I’m sure they’ll only need a couple, but I figure I’ll hang around the schoolyard on the first day and scalp a few when class lets out, to the poor schnooks who also didn’t get the supplies list. Anyway, whatever notebooks they don’t use, I can fill with songs I write. I’ve been at it for ten years now, and I’ve already started Book Two. Next, Krazy Glue. I tossed a multi-pack into the cart. “Uh, dad, I know they’re not gonna let us use that,” said Rusty. “We’re supposed to use white glue.” “White glue is weak,” I said. “Plus, it’s made from horses. You want them to kill Flicka just so you can stick two pieces of construction paper together? No way! Besides, you can have all kinds of fun with Krazy Glue, man. Like when Brandon nods off, you can glue his finger in his nose. That’s why it’s so Krazy!” Rusty gave me a sidelong look and put some distance between us. I picked up an accordion file to help me organize the avalanche of paperwork that invariably comes home after the first day. “Can I get a pencil box?” asked Speaker, browsing through all the colorful choices of boxes emblazoned with cartoon and/or Nickelodeon characters. “Oh, I already got a pencil box for you, honey. These things are such a waste of money. Plus, they’re not big enough. I think you’ll be able to fit all your pencils and erasers and stuff in the pencil box I made you.” She looked at me with a heavy dose of skepticism, like the time she caught me giving her Barbie doll a Brazilian wax. “What did you make it out of?” “An empty Swiffer box. I covered it with dryer lint and ribbons.” No go. I let her get the Scooby Doo pencil box (Reight rawlers?!? Ruh roh!) I took two rubber stamps off the shelf and put them in the cart. Rusty looked at me quizzically, so I explained that they simply said “Returned NSF.” “What’s that mean? he asked. I told him how the bank will sometimes send back a check to someone if they write a check that’s more than the money they have in their account. “Like the ones you keep getting from the liquor store?” asked Speaker. “Yeah,” I said. “Like those. And you know how, when daddy opens an envelope with a returned check, he always says some not nice things about the bank?” “You mean, like when you called that one lady a turd nugget?” asked Rusty. “Yeah, well, the turd nugget lady wouldn’t redeposit the check I wrote, even though I had just post-dated them a check from another account. She was cranky. Prob’ly not getting any. Oh, never mind. Anyway, here’s what you do with this stamp: if you get a poorly-graded paper from your teacher, just stamp it with this, in red ink, and just kind of casually drop it on her desk on the way out of class. She’ll be afraid or confused, I bet, but either way, she’ll probably slide you a few points.” This brilliant tactic went right over their heads, so I put the stamps back on the shelf. We got pens, rulers, pencils, and some highlighters. I let the kids pick out which color of highlighter they wanted, but warned them that one of the reasons I flunked out of college was that I used a black highlighter all through my sophomore year. I mean years. Tape. Scissors. Erasers. Pocket folders. Glitter (hey, you never know). “Do we get new lunch boxes?” asked Speaker, surprisingly hopeful. “No, I already got you one,” I said, as she rolled her eyes. “It’s brown, and it’s shaped like a small bag. You’ll love it. It’s going to be a great year.

Posted in Family, Parenthood, School, Shopping | Comments Off

How To Shop For a Used Car

"You want car? I have car! Car break. I fix car! Car good now. Real cream puff. You buy now!"

“You want car? I have car! Car break. I fix car! Car good now. Real cream puff. You buy now!”

The adult experience is loaded with grim tasks, responsibilities, expectations and unfortunate realities. It’s a good thing I’m married so I have a wife to handle all that shit.

But when it comes to buying a car, I’m in the driver’s seat. Not to say that women don’t know their way around the automotive ken, but we dudes have cars in our DNA. This kind of stuff is fascinating to us. We learn to identify make, model and year from the time our tiny hands can grip a Matchbox car. Our veins practically run with transmission fluid.

When a young woman gets her very first car, she insists that it is clean, easy to operate, and gets decent gas mileage. Oh, and it would be nice if the vanity mirror is lighted. This is why God created the Plymouth Neon.

When a guy gets his first car, it is usually some hand-me-down square car or mom’s old station wagon. No matter. By the end of the first week of ownership, the lad’s vehicle will be festooned with every cheap-smack, bolt-on piece of chrome crap you can get at the corner auto parts store. From a shiny eight-ball gearshift handle to the skull-and-barbed-wire sticker obscuring the rear window, these accessories serve to individualize the vehicle. The young driver’s hormone-addled personality is on display for all to see. Chrome exhaust tips, LED running board lights, a stick-on dash compass, a fuzzy steering wheel cover—they all say, “Look out world, here I come! Better lower your deductible!”

“You want car? I have car. Car break, I fix. Car good now. Real cream puff. You buy now.”

This irrational compulsion for low-rent customization is endemic to all young men, so don’t try to stop it or understand it. If a teenager discovers a loud racket coming from a hole in the exhaust system, he’ll rush right out and lay down $300 for a bigger set of speakers.

So when it comes time to replace our used car with a not-quite-so-used car, I’m the man. Mrs. Wire and I discussed the make and model we’d like to have, and looked at our budget. Then we had a good laugh, wiped the tears from our eyes and took another run at it.

I went directly to Craigslist because anyone dumb enough to still pay for newspaper classified ads probably has been pumping gasoline into the wrong hole, if you know what I mean. The car we targeted was a Subaru Outback, no older than a 2007. This is a model that’s so ubiquitous in our neck of the woods, there’s a good chance one of our next-door-neighbors has one for sale.

But they didn’t (alas, only a Forester and a Legacy sedan), so I opened my laptop. I did a search under “Private Owners.” Nothing against the dealers, but their relentless hyperbole makes me feel icky. (“Once In a Lifetime Deal! Hard to Find Ford Expedition! Hardly Any Bullet Holes At All!”) So I searched and searched. I called and talked. I visited and drove.

One character, who speaks with a heavy Russian accent, runs a curbside car lot on the edge of town. He finds wrecks, has his team of crack immigrants bend and twist them back into shape, and runs photos of the car’s “good side” on Craigslist, so you can’t see the duct tape and raw Bondo. Nix. I kept looking.

My cream puff finally appeared. This 2008 model was owned by a young professional whose wife had recently had a baby. As all parents know, the 13th Amendment to the Constitution states that any American engaging in procreation must avail themselves of a minivan. Their Subie had to go.

So I called him up and arranged for a test drive. He couldn’t be there during the day, being a professional and all, so he said he’d leave the keys. As an unprofessional, I have a lot of time on my hands so I drove out to his house in the countryside late one morning. I parked my 4Runner and hopped into the Subaru.

Nice. No one had stuffed candy wrappers and Tootsie Pop stems into the armrest holes. There was no bubble gum rubbed into the carpet. I could see clearly out the rear window because it was not hazed with dried dog slobber. The seats were all one color, not a Jackson Pollock pastiche of fast food condiments and vomit. Boy, these young parents had a lot to learn.

I pulled out of the driveway and headed for Highway 93 to get this baby up to speed. All of our vehicles have been five-speed sticks, but this was an automatic. There was only one five-speed stick Subaru Outback manufactured after 2005, and it is currently in the Smithsonian, suspended in amber for possible future DNA reanimation.

An opening appeared in the traffic and I jammed it into Drive. Or so I thought. Subarus come with something called Sport Shift, which is a shifter selection that allows you to override the automatic transmission. I had unknowingly pushed the shifter all the way over to Sport Shift, so this thing wasn’t going to shift to a higher gear until I tapped the knob forward. Kind of a clutchless manual.

So I revved that poor engine up near the redline, waiting for it to upshift. Just when I thought the car was going to fly apart like Rand Paul’s head when some trick or treaters asked him to donate to UNICEF, I pushed the shifter into a higher gear, and kept pushing it until it reached fourth. Well, this sucks, I thought. Mrs. Wire and I do not want to learn how to operate a THIRD kind of transmission.

Then my cell phone buzzed. I pulled over on a river overlook and picked it up. As luck would have it, the car’s owner was calling to see if I’d picked up the car. I asked him how to get this goddamn thing out of Sport Shift, and he told me to just let the shifter slide to the bottom where it naturally wants to go. Test drive saved.

So I drove around town, had my boys at Kent Bros give it a thorough Bob’s-your-uncle, and picked up Barb for a quick test drive. I climbed into the passenger’s side and she began tooling around the streets of Missoula. Within a couple of minutes I started squirming in my seat. Sweat filmed my forehead, and I ran my window down.

“Are you okay?” she said, looking concerned. “Is it hurting your back?”

I shifted back and forth in my seat. “No, it’s not that. I…I think I’m having menopause.”

Barb frowned, slowing for a red light. She looked down at a couple of controls on the console between the seats. “This model has heated seats.  You must have bumped yours when you got in. It’s all the way up.” The light turned green and she accelerated, laughing.

“Very funny,” I said, rolling back the heater dial. “By the way, I have lost all interest in sex. Augh. I am so tired. Wow, my hair’s starting to fall out. Where are we going? I hate you.”

She kept her eyes forward. “I see the airbag on your side is deactivated,” she said coolly. “Let’s see how it does in the front crash test.”

“Sorry.”

The sleek Subie passed all tests with flying colors. Looks like we’ll be handing our vaunted 1993 Grocery Getter down to our teenagers, the younger of whom I just signed up for Driver’s Ed yesterday.

I dropped Barb back at work and returned the car to the owner’s house.

“So what do you think?” he said. “Do you guys want to make an offer?”

“Well, let me put it this way. I’ve already changed all the radio station presets and swapped out the gearshift knob for a chrome skull. Let’s talk money.”

Posted in Being Married, Business, Family, Manhood, Montana, Shopping | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Man and Sandwich, Part 2

During the school year I like to get up and make the kids’ lunches. Been doing it since they were in kindergarten. To this day they would be content to have a PB & J every day, but I won’t le them. I have too much respect for the sandwich.

Even the stalwart PB&J has been cast aside for a spectacular susbstitute that is so scrumptious and tasty that once you adopt it, you’ll say Smuckers like it’ the filthy word it sounds like it is. But more on that later.

Rusty is the sandwich ascetic. This sandwich of preference is two slices of honey ham on a folded piece of plain wheat bread. He’ll tolerate a slice of pepper jack cheese maybe, but no condiments. No veggies. I pity the fool.

The poor kid doesn’t know what he’s missing. As any sandwich enthusiast knows, it’s the condiments that bring the whole thing together. The right combination of flavor schmears can transform a sandwich from a simple assemblage into a life-altering work of gustatory magnificence. Seriously, this cannot be overstated. Not only do the various tastes work to intermingle with the other ingredients, but condiments serve as edible mortar, literally holding the whole thing together.

The one condiment that seems to bring the strongest reaction from people is mayonnaise. As benign as it is, people seem to either love it or hate it—there is no middle ground. It’s the Neil Young of sandwich spreads.

I was making a sandwich for one of our friends last summer, and casually asked her if she wanted some Best Foods on it. From her violent reaction, you’d think I’d offered to take a dump on her pastrami. “I HATE mayo! It’s disgusting! Gawd, how can anyone put that greasy shit onto a perfectly good sandwich? Jesus, it’s HORRIBLE! GAWD!”

Hold the mayo. Gotcha.

Personally, I like mayo because it adds little in the way of taste (especially the low-fat stuff I’m forced to eat), but offers superior adhesion qualities. And its relative blandness takes a back seat to other condiments like brown mustard, horseradish, relish, etc. I sometimes like to use hummus, which does bring the occasional admonishment from some pita-munching vegetarian: “Dude. You’re totally bogarting the hummus.”

I can’t quite remember what all was on the best sandwich I ever had, but I vividly recall where and when. It was at Ron Setzer’s house, in the spring of 2006. He was playing bass in my band at the time, and we were deep into the mixing stage of American Piehole, my first CD with the Magnificent Bastards. We actually forged a solid friendship over this process, bumping heads and arguing over reverb levels, bass tones, and other such recording minutiae. At one point during a particularly contentious session (he thought my vocal take sucked, and I thought it sucked just right), he suggested we take a break, and go down to the kitchen for a sandwich.

While I sat on the living room couch and listened to that day’s mixes, Ron worked feverishly in the kitchen and soon produced a couple of world-class specimens. Like I say, I don’t remember what was in the sandwich, but I do recall that there was a lot of it. This thing was an aircraft carrier. And the best part was the bread. He’d taken a big loaf of focaccia from Le Petit Outre, sliced it in half, and built each of us a sandwich you could land a plane on. The bread was a couple of days old, and when I bit into it, it bit back. That’s when I learned a very important sandwich lesson: use bread that has some authority. I had to get a good grip on this thing, and use all 23 teeth to subdue it.

We stood at his kitchen counter, discussing the problems we were having finding our sound on the current song, and washing down mouthfuls of sandwich with gulps of Kettle House beer. (Did I mention that this man knows how to live?) We finished our meal and headed back upstairs to his spare-room studio, reinvigorated and inspired to pound this track into shape. The experience of sharing that sandwich with Ron is one of my favorite memories from creating that album, and I fully credit it (and him) for breathing new life into the project. But also, that formidable sandwich served as a serendipitous catalyst for our friendship. His attention to detail and passion for excellence were quite apparent when he made the sandwiches, and I can hear it now when I listen to the CD.

All this from a freakin’ sandwich, you say? Hell yes. I’ll bet a lot of you can name the best sandwich you ever had, and where and when you had it. It might have been that baloney and mustard on Wonder bread you were chewing in the lunchroom when your fourth-grade girlfriend told you she would go steady, and gave you a peck on the cheek. It might have been that roast beef and pastrami on rye you picked up at the deli after burglarizing your first liquor warehouse. Maybe it was a simple turkey and mashed potatoes midnight snack you enjoyed in your brother’s kitchen after sleeping with his wife last Thanksgiving.

So, try as I might, I still feel like I’m coming up short when I try to explain the special bond between Man and Sandwich. There are just so many attractions that appeal to the basic needs of men, who, let’s face it, are little more complex than bears with furniture.

There’s the variety, of course. Literally millions of yummy combinations are possible, and tasty new discoveries present themselves all the time. Take that plain jane PB & J. I like to slice plump grapes in half, film both sides of the bread with peanut butter, and build a sweet, juicy, healthy sandwich that tastes like dessert.

Peanut Butter and Grape Sandwich

This is the sandwich that Big Jelly doesn’t want you to know about.

There’s the portability factor: nothing like pulling a two-pound beauty out of your backpack at 33,000 feet over Omaha, while your seat-mates try to sustain themselves on stale little pretzels and peanuts so old they may have been grown by George Washington Carver himself.

Twenty years ago I hitchhiked from Seattle to Denver, inspired by the peripatetic life of Jack Kerouac. I gave away or sold most of my possessions and went on the road to a new life. Like the King of the Beats, I made a bread bag full of sandwiches for the journey, all built with generous slabs of deli turkey, cucumber and tomato slices, and carefully wrapped to survive long days and nights deep in my duffle bag.

They were gone by the end of the second day.

Still, whenever I eat that exact sandwich, I’m flooded with memories from that trip. But that’s a story for another day.

I’ll leave you with this: Warren Zevon was the subject of a tribute album not long after his untimely death in 2003. He was a musical inspiration to me, an artist who saw the world through a skewed lens. His songs and his lifestyle reflect a sardonic, tortured soul who wasn’t afraid to grab the world by the lapels and spit in its face, and laugh maniacally at the absurdity of it all. He knew all along that our time on earth should be spent making messes, pushing limits, and constantly shining a bright light into those dark corners of our soul, because it could all end at any time.

The title of that album: “Enjoy Every Sandwich.”

Posted in Culture (or lack thereof), Food, Manhood | Tagged , , , , | Comments Off

Man and Sandwich: A Sacred Relationship (Part 1)

To a man, it's never "just" a sandwich.

To a man, it’s never “just” a sandwich.

Recently a woman approached me at a local watering hole. She introduced herself, and asked me if I could give her some advice because she was having “man trouble.” Seems she had the hots for some guy, and wondered if I could give her some ideas about how to attract him.

I looked around for a moment, wondering if she was mistaking me for someone else. I mean, my most successful tactic used to be faking a heart attack near the object of my desire so she would give me CPR and I could jam my tongue down her throat. But I didn’t think that’s what this woman needed to hear. I considered suggesting something she could put behind her ears, like her ankles, but nixed that idea too.

I shrugged. “Make him a good sandwich.”

One of my friends was standing nearby, and agreed. “Yeah,” he nodded. “A good sandwich. On good bread.” Our discussion soon drew a half dozen people of both sexes, and I found it difficult to explain to the women why the sandwich held such a special place in the hearts of men.

 

The thing is, for men, a sandwich is much more than just two pieces of bread with some stuff between them. The appreciation and esteem we hold for the sandwich seems to be peculiar to our gender, like a weakness for the Three Stooges. Our relationship with the sandwich is a deep and committed one, not to be taken lightly. If it were up to us, instead of that portrait of JFK or large crucifix on the living room wall, most of us would have a large painting of the Earl of Sandwich.

More than anything else we shove into our mouths, the sandwich holds a special appeal and great promise. Ask one of your guy friends if he’d be willing to come over and help you clean out your moldy storage shed some Sunday afternoon. You’ll probably get a lukewarm response, if not an outright rejection. But tell him you’ll have sandwiches and coffee, and he’ll be there before you hang up the phone. If we are getting sandwiches and coffee, that elevates the stature of any event, turning it into a Project or a Job. Sandwiches paired with coffee is some no-nonsense sustenance, baby. Man fuel.

So what is it, exactly, about the sandwich that so stirs a man’s soul? First, it is the sheer variety. There is almost no limit to the different combinations of things you can put between two pieces of bread. Take the lowly PB&J, for instance. The peanut butter alone can be creamy or chunky, you can use almond butter, soy butter, or any number of weird schmears typically found at hippie food stores. I recently ran across something called Nutella, which I originally thought was some kind of scrotum unguent. But there it was in the jelly aisle.

But a PB&J is kid’s stuff. A real, grown-up, red-blooded, boner-inducing, man-grabbing sandwich can be broken down into four components: Protein, Vegetable, Bread, and Condiments.

(Side Note: I once received a party invitation from Severt Philleo, Missoula’s long-lost Prince of the Gay Raconteurs. The invite boasted that “Condiments Will Be Served.” Classic Severt. I miss that guy.)

On the protein side, a real sandwich is going to contain meat, preferably more than one kind. You can have anything from an inch-thick slab of leftover meatloaf to a wafer of prosciutto sliced so thin you can read a subpoena through it. Be it bovine, porcine, ovine, cooked in white wine or killed with a clothesline, any meat will work if it can be whittled down to workable dimensions.

Mouth feel is a very important part of the sandwich experience, so it’s important even how you stack your meat. I do not mean that metaphorically unless you think this is a good time for a break. When you put meat on your sandwich, you can lay it out flat, or bunch it up like a dirty sheet in a cheap motel.

Cheese is an equally important, and widely variable element to the man-worthy sandwich. My personal favorite is Alpine Lace, a low-fat Swiss cheese I like sliced to about the thickness of a toenail clipping. Cheese is a highly personal choice, so just about anything goes, even those hideous Kraft singles, which are so utterly tasteless I don’t even bother to remove the plastic when I put them on my kids’ sandwiches.

No sandwich is complete without a generous helping of veggies. Lettuce, sprouts, peppers, cucumber, tomatoes, pickles, man, the list just goes on an on. The veggies supply part of the moistness, and all of the crispness to the sandwich (unless you’re using unwrapped Kraft singles). In lieu of vegetables, potato chips and Fritos have been known to provide the crunch, although most guys eschew (sorry) this practice as somewhat juvenile, even for a man.

The order in which you layer the stuff also will determine the efficacy of a successfully built sandwich. Do you like the lettuce or sprouts on the top, like a garnish? Or on the bottom, like a foundation? And what about the sliced pickle? If you put it right next to the tomato, the whole top half of the sandwich will slide off. There is some serious epicurean engineering involved with sandwich-making. You can’t just rush in there and start throwing things together like you’re building a Bangladesh clothing factory.

This is a lot to ponder, I realize, so I will leave you now and take this up next time with the most vital—and the most controversial—ingredient to the sandwich: the condiments. I’ll also tell you about the best sandwich I ever had, and I’ll share some important sandwich-making tips and rules.

‘Til then, do you have any Grey Poupon?

Posted in Being Married, Culture (or lack thereof), Family, Food, Lifestyle, Manhood | Comments Off