THE CHINESE ARE SMOKING TOO MANY CIGARETTES

THE CHINESE ARE SMOKING TOO MANY CIGARETTES

by Mark Driver

Another Seattle summer and, once again, my lovely city on the Sound is smelling like a poorly maintained aquarium. I know we got a budget crunch going on, but hey kids, let’s spend a little for some suckerfish, OK? At least wipe a little algae off the glass there, boys.

Summer in the Northwest. Oppressive days, baking under a 75-degree sun. Men across the Metro area with no business even being naked in the shower are publicly deshirting, subjecting unsuspecting and innocent passersby to pasty winter breasts, love handles with pistol grips, and torsos rich with livery leech spots. It hit 90 yesterday (I know, I know, it’s 110 where you live) and I believe I came very close to dying, partly because I used all my heat tolerance growing up in Atlanta, but mostly from the fact that the Neanderthals here stink like dead diapers—and I live in a silly hipster neighborhood. I can’t imagine what it smells like down in Kent.

But otherwise, life’s great. They just let a trillion car thieves out of prison here because people want tax cuts. Two mass-murder sprees on the same day. Monkey pox from exotic pets. No jobs. The Clean Air Act’s getting rewritten by an ex-CEO of GloboChem. Secret military tribunals with summary executions. Red Mountain Dew. They’re finding dangerously high levels of birth-control pills and heart medicine pissed into the water supply. And take that, post-Communism, the US has finally surpassed Russia as the premiere nation on earth; we’ve got the largest percentage of our population behind bars! American bars! USA! USA! (Yes, I fully realize the irony of complaining about criminals being released while bitching about our insane prison population. Let’s legalize a few drugs and see where we are, OK Papillion?)

Brave Ashcroft is aiming his home-security death ray at doctors who recommend weed for their terminally ill patients, people invariably dying of cancers induced by the toxic environment that he and his buddies got rich creating. (No herbs, hippie, our Pharmo buddies have expensive pills with nasty side effects for that!)

The federal government’s laying off airport security staff even though we’re still supposedly “at war with terror.” Tax cuts for the lucky 2% while our country incurs the LARGEST DEFICIT IN ITS HISTORY. Aren’t Republicans supposed to be good with money? I suppose blowing our tax cash is fine when it’s earmarked for the patriotic dismemberment of brown folk or helping your golf buddies buy more private jets, but making sure that the poor of God’s Chosen Nation aren’t unduly suffering in the Land of Plenty—-let the churches handle that bullshit. At least the churches that aren’t busy protesting Harry Potter, abortion clinics, nitrogen, and Gay Pride parades. Which programs for poor children would Jesus cut funding to?

I’m just glad all my capital gains are coming in tax-free. That’s a real load off my mind.

But I’ve been in a good mood lately, so I suppose I should insert a bit of juvenile levity here:

Hey everyone, I’m a boner! A big, brown boner! I think my pet homo is a fag! Let’s fill the baby’s diapers with shrimp! Want to see what your grandparents are doing? Log on to www.urinesoakedpanties.com! Penis! Penis! Penis!

Was that enough juvenile levity? Cool. Cos’ poor American and British Kids are getting picked off one-by-one on a faraway soundstage ‘cos the Rich Kids scared the Not-As-Poor Kids into taping flags over their genitals.

What a great situation that is, huh? Concepts a bit more complex than words like “freedom” and “liberation” can encapsulate, right? Half of our military bogged down, kicking ass, getting blown up, and taking prisoners. It’s exactly what you wanted, right?

Added monthly wage for hazard pay: $225
New, lesser amount proposed by Bush administration: $125

Added monthly wage for separation from family: $200
New, lesser Amount proposed by Bush administration: $100

Amount paid out to immediate family in case of soldier’s death: $3000
Proposed payoff: $6000 (Bush administration on record as opposing).
(source: Army Times, June 30,2003)

Cost of one TOW missile: $30,000
Amount spent to kill each Iraqi soldier: $100,000 (Increasing weekly)
Amount spent each week in Iraq: $1,000,000,000. (Awesome!)

Meanwhile, servicemen and servicewomen hunker in their compounds, in 120-degree heat, enduring exhausting guerilla attacks on a daily basis, hating their existences, missing their families, growing increasingly cynical about their mission, punished if they speak out, fucked over on their return dates, disdained by local populations throwing rocks instead of flowers, unshowered, living on shit food, growingly willing to shoot first and not bother asking questions later out of sheer survival, and—

From an air-conditioned tower in a secret location, a doughy monkey face squints at a camera lens wedged between two televisions, one displaying a Houston Astros game, the other, old Droopy cartoons. The face pulls its attention from simpleminded distractions and, after noting all doors are duly locked and guarded by nuclear warheads, pulls a sterilized microphone from a coffered ceiling to it’s lips and says, unflinchingly, “bring ’em on!”

“Yeah,” says a man in a car, speeding to meet his mistress for dinner at a restaurant his wife has been trying to get him to take her to for seven months, “bring ’em on!”

“Yeah,” says an elderly woman, fifteen different prescription pills sweating colors onto her shaking hand as Judge Judy pontificates in the background, “bring ’em on.”

“Yeah,” says a fat man in a radio booth with drawn shades, misleading his microphone in an attempt to bury the loneliness, the feelings of failure, of inadequacy, of pain in the knowledge that he is sexually undesirable. He dabs his damp forehead with a Jack in the Box napkin, pulse speeding, randomly craving carnage, acceptance, love, suffering, bliss, money, chaos, piss, lies, liberation, escape. “Bring ’em on,” he says.

“Yes,” says a Midwestern college freshman, pulling a Hilfiger backpack over one shoulder and heading to her Economics 101 class, “I support the president. Bring ’em on.”

“Yes,” says a paramecium, flexing its micronucleus on the wet fur of a Northern brown beaver, “bring ’em on.”

Back in the bunker, however, they’re saying unpatriotic things like, “fuck all of you, bring me home.”

Traitors.

And then there’s the minor issue of dead Iraqi civilians, 7,000 and counting, All hail disease! Lack of clean water! Crime! Unexploded ordinance! Uranium poisoning!

“Oh yeah, Mr. Know-It-All, what would you do?”

Shit, I don’t know. Move our military bases from Saudi Arabia, install a bunch of Iraqi puppets and pretend it’s a democracy, set up permanent occupation and pay for it all with their natural resources and on the shattered families of small town and inner-city American kids—wait … I guess that’s what we’re doing already. Can I get my public policy job now? ROCK!

Yawn. We need new pornos. We’re out of beer. How do you like your hamburgers cooked? Do I look fat in this shirt? This week’s Onion is funny. Did I forward you that fat Star Wars kid? Hil-arious. Looks like the Mariners are gonna blow it again.

Life goes on. Life goes on. Life goes on.

The only amusing thing about any of this was that the French were right. There was no pressing threat. No nukes. No germ-infused gliders. The French said that there was no evidence to support US claims, and that Iraq presented no immediate threat to the US—and they were right. Yes. Do a dance, the French were right. Sing a song, the French were right. Kiss your mom, the French were right. Har-har. Slap some stinky cheese on your Freedom Dip, dipshit. Lucky Pierre’s coming up in spades!

But enough gloom.

Of the nicer things happening in this country, sodomy is finally legal in Texas (welcome to the 20th century, y’all! Let me show you this cool new gizmo while we’re at it … I like to call it “the microwave.”). But, because of the scumfucks who run that state, all you steers and queers are gonna be “represented” by Republican Congressmonsters until the next Ming Dynasty. The new voting districts look like a Cheney EKG. A little creative redistricting, and you’ve just become infinitely re-electable scum.

“Hello, my name is Representative Gerrymander, and I would like to talk to you about a very pressing issue that threatens to tear our country apart. Never mind the millions of retirement and college funds evaporated and careers destroyed by the collapse of our scamtastic Texas corporations, we gotta, errr, defend marriage from the gays! For the family! Oh sure, the family is already fucked because if their jobs haven’t been shipped to India by the same market forces we were raised to worship, mom and dad are both putting in 50 hours a week in a race-to-the-bottom economy we’re trying to export everywhere, and fuck pollution, an INSANE national deficit, a rebuilt Al-Qaeda, our military resources being burnt in a false and cynical cause while Liberians are begging us to invade—gay marriage is gonna blow this place apart.”

We are ruled by cheap souls in expensive suits. I don’t know how anyone in this fucking country sleeps at night.

But, eh, no one wants to hear that shit. Enough of the public. We want private! We want celebrity details. WE WANT DIRT! Well, I’m enjoying the best sex of my life. Oh, how a good fuck can clean out your head and shrink your worries to the size of a walnut! Forget clean water, if the entire world had access to hot, amazing sex on a regular basis, there’d never be another war, and I thank Ra above for sending me a girl who digs my grump love, who camps, who can travel with me through rural Mexico without whining about jungle bugs, who drinks, punches, can beat me in Scrabble, shoots beer out of her nose, can sew army pants back together—-all of which rocks, because … me?

I got fired again.

From the martini bar. It seems that the owners and I had different ideas about how many drinks I should be giving away for free. Look, every so often, you give some sad sack with elbows on the pine a shot of Jagermeister. On the house. Shit, give one to everybody within earshot. You hold the shot glasses high, salud the name of the bar, and they’ll love your place forever. They’ll bring their friends back in on the weekends. They’ll pack yer lousy yuppie fuckhole on a rainy Tuesday night. Parties are good business. Hell yeah, I’ll do shots with someone who wants to buy me one. Five in a row, I can outdrink the whole bar. And bossfolk didn’t bother me until I pissed the wrong co-worker off. Sandbagged. Fucked. Remember this kids: the people you work with are CO-WORKERS, not your FRIENDS. Be on guard, especially if you work the sweet shifts. Especially if all the regulars love you and ask about you whenever you’re not working. You know how many fucking Christmas cards I got from my drunks? Six.

So one night, the girl I work with gets wasted, sits on the back deck during a slam, and then, after continually messing with the tip jar, announces that we only made $30 on a night that shoulda netted at least $150.

I called bullshit. We argued. She stumbled out the front door.

Three weeks later, I’m fired.

If you’re always your super-friendly, beautiful self and receive constant cobra frowns from your shift-sharer, beware. They scheme. They plan. They sow seeds with your other co-workers. They use their roach antennae to signal lies and misinformation to the boss, and then, when said vermin knows the boss is doing a liquor inventory, they might come in after your shift and snake a few expensive bottles. Mess with your paperwork. They’ll do something sneaky and the family you worked with for a year will accuse you of stealing. And, because you’re certainly irresponsible and probably shouldn’t be in charge of a lemonade stand, much less a bar, you’ll agree that there are more efficient booze-pouring, dollar-collecting robots to hire. Ones that don’t wear sleeveless shirts, drink directly from the Herradura bottle and put it back on the shelf, or blast the new 400 Blows album (buy it, loser) at last call to make the club kids flee with hands on their tiny electronic ears.

It was a shitty way to go. I coulda dealt with getting fired for being incompetent, irresponsible, drunk behind the bar, lazy, and extremely belligerent to retards who deserved a smack for acting like dipshits. Sure, I was forgetful, messy, clumsy, I didn’t take my job seriously, I was unhelpful to stupid people, I lied about being out of food because I didn’t want to walk all the way to the kitchen when I had a full bar—but I never called in sick and I never missed a shift, I never pawned my work onto someone else, and, most important, I threw a hell of a party on every shift I worked. To get fired for stealing really sucks. I put 70 hours a week into that place for a year. I got paid plenty. Money is water to me. I don’t ever need more than I need. Call me a boob; just don’t call me a thief.

OK. I was a sick of peeling bloody tampons from underneath toilet seats, breathing clouds of swollen fruit flies from lime-clogged sinks, dumping trashcans of broken glass over my hands—beer and spooge catching each gashed knuckle. I was tired of wiping spilled Mai-Tais around people’s elbows, sweeping up broken pint glasses through swarms of giggling fratboys, yelling at the stupid Burning Man tribal-lite trust-fund fancy lads for trying to smoke pot on the back deck (“I used to think you were cool, dude,” does not mean much to a bartender, especially when you have enormous hunks of shit hanging out of your earlobes), dragging filth-caked rubber floor mats across slimy floors, spilling black mop water all over my shoes, filling out the 400-point closing checklist, crawling home from a 4:30 AM taxi ride dizzy and incoherent because I shouldn’t be left alone with a wall of booze, trying to grab four hours of drunken sleep to make it to my museum job by 9 and oh, consumer complaints … I couldn’t muster an ounce of sympathy. I’ll make your drink again, sister, but unless there’s an iceberg-sized chunk of bloody glass in yer white chocolate martini, you’ll see no tears of apology leaping from my exhausted eyes.

So fine. Fired again. Enough service sector for me. Mopping floors sucks and taking out barrels of trash makes your jeans smell. Office work is easy. Silly, clean, and easy. Compared to a full bar slam, most of the “emergencies” I deal with are laughable. Did someone get stabbed? Did the cash register lock up while 40 people with $20 bills are demanding margaritas? Are there Liquor Board Agents on the back deck checking IDs ($5000 fine for each kid they catch)? Did the credit card machine go down during a Friday night rush?

No? Oh, the final text for the pamphlet has to make it down to the Design Department by 3pm. Or what? Tom’s gonna get mad and go on a office-wide whipping spree with his ponytail? The membership email is being sent out 15 minutes late? Oh gosh … I’ll call 911 and warn them about an inevitable rash of middle-class art-patron suicides!

Plus, they’ve laid off so many office people that I—a part-time schlep without benefits and only grudgingly invited along to office gatherings—have a window office that’s nearly bigger than my apartment. It wasn’t assigned to me, I assigned it to myself and no one seemed to care. They rarely even turn the lights on in this wing of the building. Yes, at home I may sleep in a walk-in closet, poop in a toilet straight outta Trainspotting, be on a first-name basis with the rats in the laundry room … but at work, I’ve got a corner office with a view. And air-conditioning. I come and go as I please, smile while I microwave soup in the break area, feign interest in people’s boring-ass weekends, and get a little lump of money in my bank account every two weeks. And plus, if I ever have any of my own writing that I ever feel like working on …

And on an entirely different subject, I FINALLY FINISHED MY FUCKING BOOK. It’s not bad, if I say so myself. Fine literature? Probably not, but hella entertaining I suspect.

It is currently with my large editor-at-large, Mr. Roddy Chops, who is decked in bones and feathers, performing his New York Book Guy voodoo on it. And if Chops is good enough for the fine novels of the Conan the Barbarian series, he’s certainly good enough for me.

He’s already got his silly little editor’s hat on, and is demanding that I change the title. Fucked in Half by Scorpions? Golden Brown Stories from the Serious Diarrhea Patrol? The Bush Girls Score Boss Dope But Give Shitty Head? Chlamydea Machine: Inside the Government’s Secret Penile Implants? The Chinese are Smoking Too Many Cigarettes?

We’ll find something to slap on the front cover, but it’s all up to Roddy now. If he takes too long, I’ll give you his phone number, and we can all take turns harassing him.

After I get my manuscript back, I’ll add the finishing touches, have it pressed, and sell it over the site.

Therefore, I need an idea of how many to print. So, if you are thinking of buying a book, email me with “BOOK BOOK” in the subject line. Unless there’s insane amount of demand, I’ll probably be starting with a cool 200 and go from there.

I’m thinking $15, post-paid. We’ll do a pre-order and the first run of copies will be autographed, personalized, and probably bled and vomited upon. Does this sound reasonable to everybody?

And I have more spare time these days, so I’m planning on updating more. You deserve it, being so kind to me over the years … putting up with my little quirks—my inattention, my polemics, my poor copyediting … I wanna do something nice for you all. Maybe clean the wino up a bit? Write more often? I swear I’ll start changing my jeans at least once a week. I’ll take up gardening, learn a language, start mambo lessons. Like Felicity, I too can mad about the mambo. I can foam at the face about the mambo. Although then, probably nobody will want to dance the mambo with me. Fickle bastards. Afraid of a little foam. You make me sick. No wait, I don’t mean that. Sometimes, I just get so … so … so jumbled inside, so confused. I say things I don’t mean. Please baby, let’s continue to grow … together. There. There’s the smile that I fell in love with. We’re gonna be OK, baby. We’re gonna be OK. I promise. Shhh. Shhh. Shhh. It’s OK.

Man. I am so good.