1999 Notebook: Interval XIV

5 May 1999
Sink of the Mayans
It's Cinco de Mayo, and that means it's a burrito day! Yum yum yum! Of course, every good day is a burrito day, so I decided to find out why Mexicans are so enamored of the fifth day of May.

I'm far from San Francisco, so I asked the woman who made my burrito what all the Cinco de Mayo hoopla was about.

" 'Cinco de Mayo' means 'Sink of the Mayans,' " she explained. "The very first burrito was discovered in a Mayan sink in 1,387 BC. Why the gods chose to put the first burrito in a Mayan sink is anyone's guess."

The woman who made my burrito, and every other worker at "La Petit Casa del Gdansk," was Polish. My Cinco de Mayo burrito was full of sauerkraut. To make matters worse, I still have no idea whether or not the "Sink of the Mayans" story is true.

6 May 1999
Moore is Less
I wonder which came first: trailer parks or tornados?

After a platoon of killer tornadoes ripped through the Bible Belt, I read every story I could find to see whether Moore, Oklahoma, was trashed again. (Moore seems as attractive to a lonely, wandering tornado as a mobile [sic] home park.)

My quest was in vain. Despite all my searching, I still haven't found a journalist brave and/or stupid and/or clever enough to report that "Moore is less."

7 May 1999
Drunken Sailors' Shanties
Bruce likes to sing old mariners' sea shanties. Here's what he's singing tonight after a pint of rum:

Peanuts without beer,
that's something to fear,
Oy! Oy! Oy! Boy!
Beer without peanuts,
that's just for sluts,
Oy! Oy! Oy! Joy!

I don't think this is an old sea shanty at all, but, when it comes to drunken sailors, who can tell?

8 May 1999
Paperclips and Rutabagas
Sarah and I talk on and on and on and on about paperclips and Brassica napus.

I know almost all there is to know about paperclips but almost nothing at all about the humble rutabaga. Although it pains Sarah deeply when I say this, I find the Swedish turnip to be a vegetable of little intellectual consequence.

Conversely, Sarah is unable to even begin to appreciate the enigma that is the paperclip. How could anyone not be mesmerized by haunting curves that exist somewhere between the second and third dimension? I can't believe anyone so smart could be so unappreciative.

Sarah and I love to talk all night even though neither of us pays much attention to what the other person is saying.

9 May 1999
Hoplessly Hetero
Some friends and I were talking about sex the other night--as if there's anything else of interest in the universe. I mentioned that my dear, late friend Paul once accurately described me as "hopelessly hetero."

"I'm not so sure," said Paula.

"Well, I should know," I replied defensively. "All the empirical evidence I've gathered to date supports Paul's assessment."

"But your hearing's not the greatest," remarked Paula. "Maybe you drank his last beer--like you just did tonight--and then he called you 'hoplessly hetero' "

"Yeah, he might have just said that you were hopeless," Aaron added. "Or maybe 'hopeless hereto' or maybe 'hopeless heretofore.' "

Felix joined in by noting that I frequently slur my hearing, even under optimal listening conditions.

As always, I wished Paul would have been there. Among other things, he knew how to deal with a mob. Without him, the situation was indisputably hopeless.

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10 May 1999
A Minimum of Cents
I have set rather modest goals for myself in life. These allow me to spend more time enjoying the pleasant and rewarding fruits of indolence rather than pursuing an endless series of meaningless milestones.

But achieving one of my goals, however, is much more difficult than it sounds: Never possess more than four pennies at any time.

First, there's the problem of innumerate clerks. I don't know how many times I've bought things totaling, say, 19.84, then completely confused the cashier by handing over 20.04. The person at the till can't understand why I've offered more than 20.00 when the amount due was less than 20.00.

There's another obstacle to attaining my goal of possessing no more than four pennies at any time, and that's my habit of picking up every abandoned penny I see. I don't know how many times I've wanted to buy something and been a penny short of the amount needed. I don't know why this is, but I only seem to find a free penny in the street or on the sidewalk when I already have four in my pocket.

Even with modest ambitions, life can still be difficult.

11 May 1999
Sex Sells at Slicker Liquors
The local alcohol dealer, Slicker Liquors, is selling a new brand of beer. It's called "Steel Reserve 8.1% High Gravity Lager," and it's hard to miss. In addition to the obligatory forty-ounce bottle, it also has a poster featuring endangered wildlife.

It's been my experience that endangered wildlife is always a good way to sell things, and it certainly has worked with me in the past.

The Steel Reserve poster features a couple of rhinoceroses engaged in sexual intercourse; the copy reads, "Research Shows Sex Sells Beer." The image of rhinoceroses in coitus is as lovely as it sounds.

But there's also an extra attraction. The label assures that the brew contains extra malted barley and select hops for extra gravity. With all these extras, how could I not buy a couple of bottles?

I shared my eighty ounces of Steel Reserve with a colleague. My associate liked it, but, after a couple of glasses, he asked me to look up his home phone number because he couldn't remember what it was. It wasn't easy to get him out of the lab either, but I managed. Somehow.

It wasn't long before I too felt the effect of Steel Reserve's extra gravity. The extra gravity was too much to resist, so I didn't. I went to sleep on the laboratory floor, humming along with the primitive song of rhinoceroses mating.

12 May 1999
Making Scents of Eastern European Women
I rarely meet Bulgarian women, but tonight I met one. She smelled like an Estonian, another type of woman I rarely meet.

This olfactory information confused me. After all, Bulgaria and Estonia are culturally, politically, climatically, and horticulturally very different, very far apart.

"Natrina, is it my imagination, or do you smell like an Estonian?" I asked. (I've sometimes found that the best way to get an answer to a question is to ask it.)

"It's the wine" she said.

"Aha!" I exclaimed. I'd found the elusive common ground with a stranger.

"I drink a lot of Bulgarian wine," I said, then added a false explanation, "and not because it's the cheapest wine in the store, either."

That turned out to be the wrong thing to say. Wrong, wrong, wrong.

"You, my friend, are not talking about the wine. You speak of the fetid Bulgarian tractor fuel," she said. "The vile liquid we sell you is the petrochemical sludge that used to powerful our magnificent tractors, vehicles of honest toil that now stand idle because of your imperialist agricultural conspiracy. The wine is our little retaliation. Ha ha ha!"

She really did say, "Ha ha ha!" What could I say?

"I've never bothered with petty distinctions between varietals," I replied defensively. "All I know is that Bulgarian wine goes great with both pancakes, pizzas, and other members of the two-dimensional circular food groups. You can't say that about many wines."

I don't know if she walked away because I confused her or because I scared her. International relations are always tricky.

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13 May 1999
Nousher Jahedi (snaportrait)
Nousher Jahedi is a young Bangladeshi man I just met after he flew halfway around the world (but not from Bangladesh).

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©1999 David Glenn Rinehart