Flurry O' Fury

Thursday, July 28, 2005

Today is Rebecca’s birthday and we’re celebrating this weekend by going to see her favorite show, Phantom of the Opera.

Now, normally, wild horses couldn’t drag me to see any kind of theater, opera, or musical on stage. So I was planning on negotiating Phantom down to a fancy dinner, a dozen roses, and some other crap that chicks dig, like truffles or something. But my friend Jesse was able to convince me that Phantom of the Opera wouldn’t be all that bad.

Jesse told me that Phantom is the story of a young boy whose father was a sea captain hundreds of years ago. One fateful day, pirates attacked and sank their ship, killing the father and all of his crew except the young boy, who washed up on an uncharted African coast. From that day forward, the young man swore that he would devote his life to the destruction of all forms of piracy, greed, and cruelty – and he further swore that his sons and their sons would follow in his footsteps. Doning a mask, a purple costume, and a pair of pistols, he was reborn as the Phantom, a mysterious force of vengeance. And upon his death, his son took up the Phantom name and image in order to continue his war against crime and evil, as would every son thereafter for hundreds of years. In this manner, the Phantom has become known to criminals worldwide as “The Ghost Who Walks” and “The Man Who Cannot Die”. The Phantom uses this larger-than-life ruse to terrify those whom he hunts as he hands down justice throughout the centuries. And in his spare time, he works in an opera.

Well hey, that’s #$%*ing badass! I don’t mind shelling out $60 a ticket to see some of that. At worst, it’ll beat the hell out of roses and truffles. I think this is one birthday where we’ll both be celebrating.

Thursday, July 21, 2005

Some people have asked about my “Furious Jam” moniker. It was originally created as a nom de guerre for my EarthWire.net activities, some of which were of questionable legality. It seems to fit though because I do get mad quite often. Not “Office Rampage Leaves 5 Dead” mad, but more like extremely irritated with life’s little foibles.

For example, the route I take to work every day passes by a couple of office buildings and their parking garages. These buildings hire off duty police officers to stop traffic on my route so that buildings’ occupants can pull out of the garages at their leisure. The effect is that of depositing two extra traffic lights on the street, about 50 feet apart, and operating them at random. That effect clogs the street during rush hour and generally eats into my time on a daily basis.

Now, I ask you, what gives these officers a right to stop traffic for these buildings? Because they’re getting an extra paycheck for it? How is it right that, if I were to block traffic in this manner, I would be ticketed and arrested, but if I could afford to hire a cop to do it for me, everyone would just patiently wait?

The answer, of course, is that it’s not right – no amount of money should give a private business daily control over a public street. But, in this case, the money being paid out is going directly into cops’ pockets, so any attack on this routine would be seen as a shot at those stalwart heroes of our community. Yet just because cops profit from an activity, that doesn’t make it per se fair or even legal. It’s just another little injustice that we all have to tolerate, but since tolerance isn’t my strength, I just sit in my car and get a little bit more furious.

I deal with my fury in different ways. With the traffic cops, I give them stares and sneers which I doubt they even see – and even if they did, it would probably just warm their hearts anyway. I’ve considered yelling at them, but I don’t see how it would improve the situation. Simply running over one of them would no doubt clear the road, and also serve as a lesson to the rest, but I’m sure this would damage my car in some way – some of these cops are quite portly you know. A box of poisoned donuts might be the answer, at least in the short-term. But I’m afraid there’s no permanent solution.

I suppose it could be worse – if I was black, cops would stop me all the time.

Monday, July 18, 2005

So I’m walking our dachshund around our condominium complex when I come across a young child playing with his action figures on some stairs.

“Weiner dog!”
“Actually, they’re called dachshunds.”
“Can I pet your weiner dog?”
“I don’t know. He bites children sometimes.”
“He does?”
“Yes, but only evil children. Are you evil?”
“But how do I know you’re not evil?”
“I… I visit my grandma.”
“How do I know that your grandma isn’t evil?”
“I don’t know.”
“Let’s find out. Pet him and we’ll see if he bites you.”
“Just pet him with one finger. Just pick the finger you use the least, so if he eats it, it won’t be a big problem.”
“You must be evil then. You’ll probably grow a tail when you turn twelve.”

So he runs up the stairs and into his condo. I’ll have to keep my eye on that evil, evil kid.

Friday, July 15, 2005


This guy is just sitting in front of me in the left turn lane, waiting for the light to change. This is ridiculous. This particular light shouldn’t even be here and 9 out of 10 cars treat it like a yield. I’m sure that it’s only the result of some paranoid soccer mom who’s convinced that Junior will be run over unless we have a light every 50 feet and speed bumps inbetween. It’s just #$%*ing pointless to sit here and wait for it, but this guy is doing just that and I’m stuck behind him.

How #$%*ing sad is he? Living life this way, never bending a rule, never taking a chance? I bet he’s one of these #$%*ing idiots who always drives the speed limit too, even though it’s arbitrary and unenforced. Just some gray-haired fool in an $80K Jaguar that he probably never pushes past 70mph. Wow, I bet the valets at the golf club are really impressed with all the money you blew on that car, just so you could putter around town like grandma in her ’77 Olds.

Run the light already, you #$%*sucker! Life’s too short, man! Embrace your own mortality! Carpe diem! Turn off your soft rock radio garbage and accelerate! #$%* man! Free yourself!

But still we wait. I’d jump out of my car and kill him if he weren’t already dead. They might as well bury him right here. “Here lies John Jaguar in the left turn lane of life. Survived by wife Jane Jaguar, 2.5 kids, and his coin collection. He died as he lived, waiting for a #$%*ing light to come on.”

And then the light goes green… but he still doesn’t move.

HOOOOONK! Wake up, mother#$%*er!

Finally, a pulse! Yes, he finally makes the turn and life resumes. Here’s hoping that one day, someday, that guy will have something, somewhere that’s worth running a lazy light for…

You know, like a kick-off or a first pitch.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

Rebecca and I argue about very little. In fact, our marital life is filled with so much harmonious joy that many of you would retch with jealousy if you truly knew the extent of our bliss. That being said, we do have a rare spat from time to time, which is understandable. After all, Rebecca isn’t a perfect person.

Anyway, while our conflicts are few, we have had a disagreement over this blog. I see the blog as a personal expression that must be honest and forthright in order to be worthwhile. But she sees the blog as an egocentric venture capable of exposing the intimate details of our private lives. Our positions on the blog issue are very much opposed and possibly irreconcilable. So what to do?

Maybe there’s no clear answer to be had. But no matter what, I have to be true to myself. As such, I’ve decided that I’m not going to let my wife dictate the terms of this blog. After all, we’re equal partners in our relationship, so I have every right to be as frank as I feel necessary. If I want to write about what we ##### ## ###, I should be free to do so. Likewise, if her ######## ###### strike me as odd, I should be able to comment on it.

Granted, there are some truly embarrassing topics that should be kept out-of-bounds, like Rebecca’s ######## or my love of Sarah Brightman albums. But I feel that, as her husband, Rebecca should trust that I will keep certain matters confidential. Besides, I don’t think anyone would be interested in something like her ######## anyway. Lord knows she bores me to tears about the problem.

Anyhow, the point is that I’m going to say what I need to say. And if Rebecca has a problem with me writing about ### or her ##### ######, then she’s just going to have to deal with it as best she can, because I’m going to be my own man.

Monday, July 11, 2005

I went to Best Buy this past weekend for a radio and the clerk at the register was desperately trying to up-sell me.

“Would you like to purchase a 2-year extended warranty plan?”
“No thanks, not today.”
“It’s total protection for your purchase. It guards against wear & tear, accidents, even weather.”

Whatever happened to “no means no”? Isn’t that a good rule? Shouldn’t it have applications outside the context of date rape?

“No thank you, I don’t do warranties on electronics.”
“Well, you never know when some of these things are going to break.”
“If they’re such crap then, why are you selling them?”

See, right there I elevated the conversation to testy, hoping to end any further attempts by him to market add-on impulse buys at the point-of-purchase. But would he take the hint?

“With the purchase you’re eligible to receive a free gift-”
“-of six weeks of Entertainment Weekly. There’s absolutely no charge-”
“No. No gift. Just the radio.”
“Okay. You’re also eligible for Best Buy credit. I can help you fill out a-”
“I don’t want that.”
“Okay sir, but-”
“Tell you what, I don’t want this radio anymore either because it’s too damn hard to buy it here. Okay?”
“Okay sir, but I’ve already charged your card. I’m sorry, but you’ll need to take it to customer service now and get a refund.”
“Oh really? And what will they try to sell me over there? AOL? Girl Scout cookies?”
“I don’t know what they sell over there, sir. Can I help the next customer?”

Ladies and gentlemen, this is America. You walk into a homogenized big-box store, don’t receive any help finding a product, have no one to answer your questions, and then get sold, sold, sold worthless crap on your way out the door. The goal is to extract as much as you can from the customer while giving them as little as possible in return. And employees are treated the same way too, of course. This is how corporate America increases its profit margins each quarter.

For those among you who can’t seem to grok this system, including my zealous Best Buy clerk, I recommend that you read The Dilbert Principle by Scott Adams. If you follow the link and purchase from Amazon, a percentage of the sale will benefit this blog. If you like Dilbert, you might also be interested in a newspaper subscription at ½ price. And don’t forget to add a cell phone plan from Cingular, Furious Jam’s choice for wireless service. Did I mention my blog’s extended warranty plan?

Friday, July 08, 2005

We just found out that one of Rebecca’s cousins will be visiting us this weekend – he’s in Texas this month for training. This begins a mad dash to clean-up our apartment in an attempt to conceal our day-to-day slovenliness from cousin Robert behind a Martha Stewart-ish façade. I have no doubt that 99% of Americans go through the same routine before company comes over – and the other 1% probably live in crack houses.

Rebecca starts by scrubbing the grime out of the bathroom. I clean out the refrigerator, disposing of leftovers so mysterious and ancient that they were probably prepared by Druids. The coffee and kitchen tables, those vast repositories of junk, are swept clean of various items, including: junk mail, a toy basketball, a variety of pens, a sketch book, a copy of The South Beach Diet, spare change, empty glasses, magazines, superglue, and AAA batteries. And the guest bed linens must be washed clean of all dachshund hair.

But, most importantly, all embarrassing personal items must be concealed from view, including sexual aides, feminine hygiene products, and The South Beach Diet.

So welcome, cousin Robert. The Hotel Ginsburg is now open for business. Welcome to our lie.

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Sorry that I haven’t posted in awhile, but we’ve been having a difficult time with the death of my grandmother. It’s a hard time for all. It’s hard for me to even wrap my mind around it. Here’s a person who has always been there for you, since before you can even remember, and then one day she’s gone. It’s like your life loses a wheel and the road gets rougher for it, but you’ve got to keep on going. This is my first, up close experience with death and my first impression is that it’s not very fair. But then life’s not fair either, so I guess it all fits together.

A good chunk of Houston’s Jewish community turned up for the funeral and wake on Sunday. I know that would’ve made my grandmother happy, so I’m thankful for it, but it was awkward for me. These are people I’ve spent years avoiding. I’m not going to say why though, because I don’t feel like bashing people who were kind enough to attend my grandmother’s funeral.

What was most awkward is being an atheist at a time like this. A time like this is religion’s big moment on stage. Religion only exists to explain the unexplainable, and death is at the top of that list. If religion is the opiate of the masses, then death is the time when the dosage goes way up. And it sucks being the only sober person in the room.

So everyone’s praying and chanting and invoking and I’m off standing in a corner, trying not to be noticed. I’m following along in the prayer books, but I don’t want to be disingenuous by actively participating. The result is mostly odd looks, and my father gives me his standard lecture. But I grin and bear it because all of this worship is what my grandmother would’ve wanted to commemorate her passing. And she deserves at least that much.

Religion played a big part in my grandmother’s life, but she never let it consume her. And she never had a problem with my atheism – she never once mentioned it. My parents have harped on me all my life for not being more Jewish, but my grandmother always accepted me for who I am. And when I married outside her faith, she didn’t hesitate to accept Rebecca deep into her heart. For these reasons and more, I was happy to return to Judaism, if only for a few days. I still didn’t wear the hat though.