Sunday, January 31, 2010

Without malice aforethought I seem to be in an expository (it's not what you think) mode right now. And I know there are some beer-guzzling, hockey-watching young bucks out there - you know who you are - who think that my more recent pieces are a bit, well, high-brau. (And you can surely believe that if I could patent and trademark a sentence it would be that one.) Well, this one's for you.

What I am about to present is an extremely brief excerpt from a play called "The Jew of Malta" by Christopher Marlowe. You don't really need to know anything about the play, but if you're curious it was likely written about 1590. Here's what you need to remember:

FRIAR BARNARDINE. Thou hast committed--
BARABAS. Fornication: but that was in another country;
And besides, the wench is dead.
So what, you ask? Well, every guy, no matter what the color of his baseball cap, has the odd occasion when he has to step up to the conversational plate. Example:

Drunken Buddy #1: "Dude, didn't you used to boink Betty Jo Bielowski? I can't believe you did that, even now."

You, taking a drink of what I would hope would be your martini but is really a Milwaukee's Best Ice: "Ah, but that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead."

Drunken Buddy #1: "Guh?"

Well, it doesn't sound so great when I type it here, but trust me. It's the conversational equivalent of standing on the center line and making the game-winning basket as the horn sounds. Although as I think about it, Drunken Buddies #1 - #37 may not appreciate it as much as I might wish.

Fine. Here's another scenario: You are standing at the bar trying to make small talk and not stare at the cleavage of the succulent woman next to you.

Her: "Have you ever dated one of your professors before?" [Actually, it could be anything that starts with "Have you ever ____", but I'm assuming you just lied and said you finished college.]

You, taking a manly swig of a microbrew you know nothing about but that sounded lots cooler than an MBI: "Ah, but that was in another country; and besides, the wench is dead."

Her: "Guh?"

Well. Okay. I suppose that I have to give up and admit that you can't trot the line out just anywhere. But somewhere, someday, you will be in a position where you need the conversational shot from the center line to win the game, and you will remember this. And use it. And people will say to themselves, "Dang! Nice one!" and buy you a Milwaukee's Best Ice and the cutest among them will drag you home and wreak great sex upon you.

Who do you thank when that happens? If you say "Christopher Marlowe" I'm not letting you read my blog anymore. (I have a monopoly on this blog.) Nope. You thank "Hulles." Although if I happen to be in the crowd at the time you say it, I'm going to chime in with "Hey, nice one, Christoper Marlowe, 'Jew of Malta'. Let's see, what year did he write that? Oh yeah, it was 1589 or 1590, thereabouts." Hey, I could use the sex wreakage myself, let alone the beer.

- Hulles

Saturday, January 30, 2010

(This is the second installment of the story of Hulles' foray into the world of fashion design, see Part One )

And now with gifts (the pow'rful bribes of love),

He furnishes her closet first; and fills
The crowded shelves with rarities of shells;
Adds orient pearls, which from the conchs he drew,
And all the sparkling stones of various hue:
And parrots, imitating human tongue,
And singing-birds in silver cages hung:
And ev'ry fragrant flow'r, and od'rous green,
Were sorted well, with lumps of amber laid between:
Rich fashionable robes her person deck,
Pendants her ears, and pearls adorn her neck:
Her taper'd fingers too with rings are grac'd,
And an embroider'd zone surrounds her slender waste.
Thus like a queen array'd, so richly dress'd,
Beauteous she shew'd, but naked shew'd the best.

- Ovid, Metamorphoses X, The Story of Pygmalion and the Statue

The story of Pygmalion and the Statue, as told by Ovid, is this, as told by Hulles:

Pygmalion was a Greek guy who basically thought women sucked, big surprise, so he just hung around his house doing the classical equivalent of playing video games: sculpting. One day after he got to the twenty-ninth level of sculpting, he created a statue of a woman in ivory. He was proud of the job he did on her and went to bed happy. But as the days went by, he started liking his creation more and more, to the point where he couldn't keep his eyes off it and kept touching it. He began to fall in love with the statue; finally he went for it and kissed her and grabbed her boob.

Well, that made Pygmalion feel sort of stupid so he stood back from the statue in embarrassment. But as he stood there a little more, he realized that she had responded about as much as the last real woman he had dated, so he said the Greek equivalent of "What the fuck!", and climbed her frame. Afterward he became sort of worried that he might have gouged the ivory in his gusto, so he checked her out. She was just fine and here we all say, "Phew! Close one!".

As more time went by, Pygmalion began talking to it and dressing it up and buying it shit (see above), and eventually the statue ends up in bed with him. Now we've all been there, so I needn't elaborate. But he said to himself the Greek equivalent of, "Dude! She's a statue!" so he skipped down to the feast of Venus which was already in progress, murmured a quick and humble prayer to the goddess, then peeked between his fingers to see what had happened. Score! Apparently Venus thought Ivory Girl was pretty hot, too, so she made the fires go on and off, sort of like last call, to tell Pygmalion he got lucky.

Pygmalion scurried home and kissed the statue and grabbed her boob again. Woohoo! She's coming to life! He doesn't believe it at first so he keeps grabbing her boob, just like I would do, until finally she opens her eyes and lives. Woohoo! They leap into to bed and ten months later have a baby boy who grows up to be the classical equivalent of the Mayor of Cleveland.

So that is Ovid's tale of Pygmalion and the Statue, or at least it's the Hulles version. In passing, I should mention that the statue doesn't have a name in any classical telling of the tale; she picked up "Galatea" as a name in the 1700's probably.

As you may know, this story has been retold many times, notably by George Bernard Shaw in his play "Pygmalion," from which the movie "My Fair Lady" was made. I find it a powerful story, myself, and it has always been dear to my heart. I wanted to read Ovid in Latin but I never got around to it (and my Latin was never good enough, to be honest).

As familiar as I am with the story, however, I never realized until quite recently that there was an implied meaning to Ovid's "Pygmalion" that I had never grasped: that, in a very real sense, it was the statue that caused the sculptor to come to life. And that is why this post is the second in the Sarong saga.

- Hulles

Johannes Scotus Eriugena (c. 815 -877) was an Irish philosopher who, according to some, was "one of the most original thinkers of the entire Middle Ages." He was head of the Palace School in France at the invitation of King Charles the Bald. From William of Malmesbury via Wikipedia:

[King Charles] having asked, Quid distat inter sottum et Scottum? (What separates a sot (drunkard) from an Irishman?) Eriugena replied, Mensa tantum (Only a table).

Ah, those wacky Medieval philosophers. I love the above little anecdote and just had to share it. No wonder Eriugena was on the Irish £5 banknote from 1976 through 1993.

The reason I was reading about Johannes Scotus Eriugena was that I recalled from my college days that he was (apocryphally) stabbed to death by the pens of his students. Whose says philosophy isn't exciting? Today, I imagine he would be stoned to death by students' iPhones.

-- Hulles

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Not so long ago I was on my way out of the dentist's office when I stopped to chat up the cute young receptionist. I complimented her on her nail polish, which was a lovely shade of black.

"Oh no," she exclaimed, "This color is not black, it is called Suzi Skis in the Pyrenees".

"Excuse me?"

"Suzi Skis in the Pyrenees."

She then informed me in so many words that I was an ├╝berNeanderthal and that fingernail polish colors had had fanciful names for at least, say, two years. Well, I suppose every woman knows that, but up to that moment I had been entirely ignorant of this development in fingernail polish onomastics. I confess that I mostly let my nails go naked. Of course this is true except for when, like all men, I paint my toenails in purple metalflake before concealing them with white gym socks with no elastic left in them and going to play basketball at the YMCA. "Our little secret," we men call it amongst ourselves. But lately those occasions have been few and far between, and I mostly get all the fingernail polish I need in my Christmas stocking, so I guess it makes sense that I didn't know about Suzi Skis in the Pyrenees. The name continues to haunt me however, thus this story:

"Schuss!" said Suzi to a shih tzu sitting on the steps as she sauntered out of the chalet. She giggled to herself at her little joke. It was only her second day in Andorra, a tiny country nestled in the Pyrenees Mountains, and she was already having the time of her life. She was 23, insouciant, blond, well-endowed, packing Platinum Visa, and had already slept with a Spanish person and a French person on this trip. She giggled again just for joy as she adjusted her pinkest ski outfit to better show off her figure and prepared to hit the resort's two-diamond.

"Schuss!" cried Suzi as she glid down the the slope. The sun was shining with an explosive brightness, and the snow crystals in her wake glittered like cubic zirconia as she sped back and forth down the mountain. She had not a care in the world, and she determined then and there that she would maintain that state for the entire duration of her vacation, come what may.

As she entered the chalet after a long day of skiing she was surprised to see that no one was at the front desk. She shrugged to herself, then continued down the hall to the apr├Ęs-ski lounge with the huge fireplace, in front of which she planned to seduce that dark-haired boy from New York she had met the previous day who smelled so very much like money. Just before she entered the lounge, however, she heard a man yelling something at the top of his lungs, so she stopped in her tracks. "The last thing I need on this vay-kay is to walk into a domestic," she thought. "That would totally kill my buzz on this beautiful day."

Suzi crept up to the door and peeked into the lounge. She was chagrined to see that the entire resort staff and all the guests save her were being held at gunpoint by a group of slovenly-dressed men who obviously had not showered in some time. "Hmmm," she said to herself, "Why are there Frenchmen here with guns? I must listen closely and find out."

One of the gunmen in the room was screaming into the telephone with a marked French accent. "I say again, stupid American, connect me to the head of your CNN Europe news bureau! I lose patience, and lives are at stake!"

After a short pause, Suzi heard the man begin to scream even more loudly and become apoplectic with rage. "I am to declare myself here Boris II, the sovereign prince of Andorra, and I and my gang of swarthy Lascars from former French colonies take control of this ski resort in the Pyrenees. We demand 20 million euros in ransom for these spoiled children of rich people who speak English!"

"Andorra! A-N-D-O-R-R-A, stupid American pig-dog! It is the sixth smallest nation in Europe and its population has the longest life expectancy of any country in the world! Now relay my demands to whoever is in charge of these things at once! You have one hour until we begin skimming the bodies of young American tourists down the luge run, clad only their underpants!"

With that the man slammed down the telephone and turned to glower at his cowering captives, his mustache quivering with rage.

"Holy shit!" said Suzi softly, looking at her Rolex Lady Oyster Perpetual watch. "I've only got one hour!" She turned on her heel and ran off to her room as quickly and quietly as she could.

Once in her room, Suzi snapped open all five of her Gucci suitcases and popped open the secret compartment in each of them. She gathered all the makeup that fell out of the first and hurried to the bathroom. She washed her lovely blond hair, then dyed it a jet black. "Fuck," she said to herself. "There goes Mr. Dark-Haired Meal Ticket. Oh well, as the evil French guy said, lives are at stake!" She then smoothed dead white makeup on her face and began to apply heavy mascara to her eyes. When that was accomplished, Suzi then painted her nails with fingernail polish the color of which, oddly enough, was "Black".

Once all was done in the bathroom, Suzi came back into the bedroom and began rummaging through another of the suitcases. At last she came up with a nose ring, a labret stud, two nipple rings, and a curved belly button barbell, all in platinum by Christian Dior. "These will have to do, since this is a rush job," she muttered to herself as she inserted each one into its proper orifice.

After bedecking herself with the jewelry, she emptied the remaining three suitcases onto the bed. Three sets of clothing in varying shades of black landed on the bedspread. "Gods," moaned Suzi. "Look at them! They're all wrinkled!" But she sucked it up and chose one outfit from among them. "The dark black will show the wrinkles less," she thought.

Suzi glanced at her Rolex after smacking it against the door frame to make sure it hadn't stopped. 55 minutes had elapsed since the Frenchman had made his threat! She sprinted from her room full-tilt to the door of the lounge, took a minute to compose herself, then sauntered nonchalantly into the room.

The man who called himself Boris II was chatting amiably with one of the female guests as he cocked his gun and prepared to shoot her. "Ho ho," he said. "I have asked for 20 million euros, and in this Andorra country it is tax-free! It should be enough to keep my children in wine for a long time, no?" He then chuckled evilly, as only the French can do.

Suddenly Boris II saw the newcomer in the room from the corner of his eye and started visibly. He turned and stared at her. "Zut alors!" he cried. "What is this then? An apparition? But I have killed no one yet! Soon perhaps, but not yet!"

"Zoot a lore yourself, nasty French person. I am no apparition, I am... Goth Girl!" said Suzi triumphantly, trying but failing miserably to sound completely bored. "Prepare to be foiled in your evil plans!"

Boris II blinked. "Hah! Who are you to stop me, eh? What will you do? Throw your silly lip thing at me?" He and his henchmen all chuckled evilly at that.

"You won't have such an easy time of it as that," said Suzi with a fake yawn. "Unless you immediately lay down your weapons, let these people go, then go take showers, I shall first aloof you, then I shall treat you with scathing indifference, then I shall overwhelm you by my morbid fascination with death!"

"Sacre bleu, my delicate French sensibilities cannot withstand such an onslaught!" said Boris II. "You win! We surrender! Lucky for us we are used to it!"


"Schuss!" cried Suzi jubilantly as she glid down the slopes of the Pyrenees the following day, newly re-blonded and followed closely by the Dark-Haired Meal Ticket. "Schuss!"

- Hulles

Monday, January 25, 2010

So. A beautiful Greek goddess thinly disguised as a Minnesotan just walked into my bar. Me being me (which is my excuse for everything), I walked up to her and said, "Hi, my name's Hulles. I want you to buy me a drink, come home with me and sex me down, then clean my bathroom."

She looked me up and down, smiled coyly, and said, "Pick one."

Just my luck! At least I got a drink out of the deal.

- Hulles

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Not so long ago I gave someone very dear to me something that I will call, for lack of a better word that I am able to pronounce, a sarong. It is made of cotton (I think), has a dark blue and black pattern, wraps around her waist, and becomes her quite nicely. I suppose at this point I should explain that this person and I are just friends and I am totally not in love with her, even though she's beautiful, intelligent, witty, loving, funny, artistic, lithe, steamy hot, enjoys watching Lesbian porn, has eyes that one could fall into forever...what? Oh yeah, I was saying that we're just friends. At any rate, upon receiving my humble gift, this person – Sandy – said something like, “I love it! It's beautiful! I'll have to figure out a top to wear with it, though.” And I said, “Hey, no problemo, Toots. I'll make you a top.”

Well, I didn't really say “no problemo, Toots” because I don't talk like that, but I did say that I'd make her a top.

You'd think I would have learned better by now. Statements rashly uttered have gotten me into trouble before, things like “Sure, I'll help you move,” “Your jail house tat sucks,” and “Hey, want to get married?” But apparently I have yet to master the ability to think before I shoot my mouth off. Big surprise, right?

So I'm making Sandy a top. And I have no idea what I'm doing.

A day or two after my off-hand comment I realized that, not only was I actually going to go through with this project, but that I had some trepidation about it. Some trepidation? More like white-knuckle fear. I couldn't at first figure out what I was afraid of, until I realized that I was afraid I was going to like designing Sandy a top. “Hah!” said my friend Haley, of whom all the things I said about Sandy are true as well except possibly for enjoying Lesbian porn, have to ask her sometime, “Hah! What you're really afraid of is that, not only will you like it, but you'll be good at it.” And she was right, of course. Incidentally Haley recently became real, but that's probably another blog entry.

The very first issue that I had to confront was what to actually call this thing I was to create. My initial inclination was to call it a shirt, because that's the only form of apparel that guys wear above their waist and I'm pretty comfortable with the concept if not always the execution. But then I recalled that she's a girl (*sigh*), and it might actually be a blouse. Or a chemise. Or a peignoir, who knows? So I settled for calling it a “top,” because I am reasonably confident that it is not a “bottom”, and thus I felt ready to tackle the next hurdle, to mix sports metaphors.

What should it look like? My criteria were that the top be simple, elegant and make this lovely woman appear even more lovely. “Pfaugh! Easy! No problemo!” I said to myself. Well, once again I didn't really say “no problemo,” and I kind of struggled with pronouncing “pfaugh,” but you get the idea – I was confident to the point of cockiness of my ability to design a garment that a beautiful young lady could wear in the evening with a sarong. Until I actually tried to come up with a design. Nothing. Zero. Zip. Nada. Then it struck me: my entire experience with women's fashion to that point had consisted of picking up clothes off the bedroom floor after a night of heavy drinking and subsequently burning them.

Yet I know how my mind works, so I simply let it roil and percolate for a few days until it came up with a design that I liked. Then I revised it because it was too complex and it became two tops. “Gleep!” I said, and that one I actually was able to pronounce without too many problemos. “The project has already grown! Soon I'll be coming out with my own fashion line and have to pretend that I'm gay and buy over-priced real estate in Florida!” But I now had two designs in my head and thus I felt ready to hit the Internet and dive head-first into the rocky shoals of fashion design.

Let me tell you right away that there are not too many fashion design web sites that are meant for beer-swilling, football-watching, shit-kicking Iowa boys like yours truly, who secretly believe in their heart of hearts that women who look like Sandy (and Haley) should wear no clothes whatsoever. For starters, most – as in, all – of these web sites presuppose that you know something about fashion. What the fuck is a selvage (US) or selvedge (British)? Do I need one? Do I need two? What is damask? Organza? (Sort of like the sound of that one.) What in Calvin Klein's name is “Poly Double Georgette?” These sites could have been in Symbionese for all the sense they made to me.

“Okey dokey,” as Hannibal Lector might say, “time to limit my searches to that which I am pretty sure I will need – silk.” You see, my vision of Sandy's top (*sigh*) was to be realized in black silk. I even knew exactly what the fabric should look like and how I wanted it to feel. Finding it proved to be something of a challenge, however. Did you know that there are such things as “free-range silkworms”? I can only image the Japanese silkworm drovers on little ponies cracking their whips and cursing (in Japanese of course) as the Great Silkworm Drive begins; the plains themselves rumble with the susurration of thousands of wild silkworms being herded to the great silk factories of.... Yep. Free-range silkworms. Did you also know that some silk can be pinned and some can't? That some silk is suitable for linings and some for garments per se? That “watered silk” is pressed between rollers to impart a design to the fabric in a process called “calendaring”? Yeah, me neither.

But I persevere. I will keep you posted on my progress in these pages, to the point where I actually present my creations to Sandy. Speaking of which, I am a total gentleman and would never expect Sandy to fuck my wheels off in frank gratitude for the hours and hours I am spending on this project. I can get laid any time; or more precisely, I can get laid any time once I place my Onion Personals ad. If, however, Sandy feels that said wheels will continue to be an unsightly and crippling hindrance to me the rest of my life unless immediate action is taken, who am I to refuse? One must be gracious, after all.

- Hulles

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The last time I was able to sit down and chat with my mother, she told me the following little anecdote about my brother Tom, aka Leo:

When Leo was 7 or 8 years old he had a huge crush on a pretty little girl named Janine. Of course, being my brother, he was too shy to actually speak to her, so instead he lived with his 8-year-old fantasies while being snubbed from afar.

However, one day he came home from school extremely excited and said, "Mom, guess what! Janine talked to me today!"

"Really, what did you do?" Mom asked.

"Well, I didn't know what to do so I hit her."

Go Leo.

-- Hulles

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Recently - as in minutes ago - I was reading an Onion article when I noticed at the bottom of the page a blurb for "the Onion Personals". "What the..." I said to myself. I wasn't sure if it was a joke or not, the Onion being what it is, so I followed the link. As it turned out, it seemed to be a real on-line dating (OLD, an acronym I'm not entirely comfortable with) service. "Hmmm..." I said to myself, still savoring the flavor of the last ellipsis in my mouth, "Perhaps I'll sign up. I've never done the OLD gig before, and if there was ever a publication with which to be associated for dating purposes it would be the Onion. Hey, maybe Alexis would still give me sex advice even though it's not Vita.MN!"

No sooner thought than commenced. I began to fill out the questionnaire for a new account and was immediately confronted with my first moral, ethical and spiritual quandary. Even at the time, I knew it would not be the last such quandary I would face before the process was finished. It was, as you might guess: Do I lie? After much head-scratching I decided, "Hell, yes!" although I promised myself that I would skirt the truth closely enough that you could at least see it from there. And I hadn't even gotten to the hard parts yet. The very first choice I had to make was a user name. "It shouldn't be your real name," the instructions cautioned. My inclination was to use "Hulles," even though that has become my real name for all intents and purposes the last few years. The argument against this was that I immediately imagined the cherished readers of this blog would glom onto my personal life like leeches onto my thigh that one time. But I used it anyway. Like I care.

So "Hulles" it would be. Next ME&S quandary: age. "I'll tell the truth here," I thought proudly. "Damn the tortillas, and all ahead flank." I also probably said "Aaargh!" to myself; I don't really recall. So I put in the month and day of my birth, but to my chagrin the drop-down box for the year only had years Anno Domini. So I approximated -- 1989. I did this even though I knew full well it would mean springing for the shit that old men use to "blend the gray in naturally", whatever the hell it's called. At least a bottle of it would last a long time.

Onward. The next question was "Occupation." Now, for most people this wouldn't be a hard question but it was for me, because actually I began hoping that women would respond to my personal ad, even if it was just a hint of condensation on a vinyl chair. In the end I chose "drummer." Perfect.

Now for the meat: I needed a catchy tag line for my ad. That one turned out to be not so tough -- I am the master of the catchphrase. I ended up with "I only played a stalker in the movies, honest!". "Fair enough," says I, "That ought to make 'em grab their iPhones® and start frantically typing in a reply with one finger while driving."

On to the description of me. "Oh, where to start!" I wailed, alarming the cat. "I have so much trouble talking about myself!" An understatement indeed, as faithful readers of this blog know quite well. Here is the shit up with which I came, thank you very much Winston Churchill:

First, I should tell you that I'm not really a drummer. I chose that occupation because it seemed to sum up my socio-economic status quite nicely in one word. I am, however, a writer, which might be even worse. I am completely inexperienced at on-line dating, but I know a lot about love. I have been in 8,234 long-term relationships, and in fact I have a dramatic and convincing testimonial on my FaceBook® Wall from my ex-wife that pretty much says it all. My friends tell me that I am the most heterosexual man they know when we're out at the '90s, and I suppose my enemies say the same thing. Yet I remain humble.

I enjoy going out for the occasional adult beverage when you can afford it, I am a former ex-smoker, and I use strong language when the situation warrants, like now when the 'e' key is sticking on my fucking keyboard, but other than that I have no flaws whatsoever and I expect the same of my date.

I am told I completely lack a sense of humor, but I am on a waiting list for a transplant at the U of M Hospital. Until then I read the Onion so I can fake it.

Finally, I should say that I really DID play a stalker in the movies, and I'll send you the links should it come to that. I look forward very much to meeting you.

"Not bad, albeit a bit pithy," I thought, "And it only took two hours to write!" So I reviewed my entry for spelling, grammar and punctuation (which in itself immediately set me apart from most ads) and hit the "SEND" button on the web page, which was labeled "page 2 of 2". This of course took me to page 3 of 2, which was (as you more experienced OLD people probably know already) the page where you decide what level of membership you want: Gold, which was stupefyingly expensive and only to be used by the most hopeless wretches, and Silver, which was merely expensive and means you show up after the hopeless wretches in searches. I looked in vain for a Bronze membership, which would be cheap, or even better a Tin membership which would be free. Alas, the Onion Personals deal only in precious metals. So I sat there in stunned disbelief for several minutes before finally hitting the GTFO icon in the corner of the screen. That was followed by language most foul, as I realized that I hadn't copied the description reproduced above, of which I was very proud. So I had to laboriously reconstruct it from an already feeble memory for this blog entry, and you're welcome, dammit.

So - a lesson painfully learned. In the aftermath of the tragedy, I concluded two things: first, that I had enough moral, ethical and spiritual quandaries raising two beautiful daughters in high school (them, not me) that I don't need more from a punk-ass dating service, and second, that the Twin Cities on-line dating scene will have to survive without me for a while longer, at least until I have some money.

But then again, if I have money I won't need a dating service.

-- Hulles