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I am Spartacus
09 January 2016 @ 10:50 pm


7.03.2002 3:09 PM

Derision667: Howdy.
Charlsie: Hey You
Charlsie: I got yelled at for telling someone that Grimace is a milk shake
Derision667: Oh?
Charlsie: I got into an argument with someone over it
Derision667: What'd they believe that he was?
Charlsie: They didn’t have an answer for that they just said that he was purple and fuzzy and that milk shakes aren’t fuzzy
Derision667: They are if you leave them out long enough.
Derision667: When was the last time Grimace was refrigerated?
Charlsie: Good point I’m going to have to bring that up next time I’m in Literature class
Derision667: That might also explain why he's purple.
Derision667: I've never left a milkshake out that long, but I'm sure there's some kind of color things that happen.
Charlsie: Could be.... don’t think I’m gonna find out anytime soon
Derision667: Tell you what. I got a milk shake last night. I'll start leaving it out now, and in twenty years or so... I'll check it and see if it's purple.
Charlsie: Deal
Derision667: You know... that could also explain the name. After twenty years, that milk shake has got to have a smell.
Derision667: The kind of smell that might even make you... GRIMACE.
Charlsie: !!!
 
 
Current Mood: nostalgic
Current Music: Snakehips - All My Friends
 
 
I am Spartacus
09 August 2015 @ 02:13 pm
Hmm.



It was a shame when the pictures that I'd had hosted on GeoCities and AOL disappeared. ImageShack was supposed to be safe from that. Even now, their site encourages you to "safeguard your hi-res photos in the cloud!" Except, you know, if you've tried to safeguard any of your photos in the cloud during any time other than just right now, you're out of luck. Hmm.

Well, one more chunk of the nostalgia that was this LiveJournal has gone down the shitter. What'll be next?
 
 
Current Mood: annoyed
Current Music: Ladyhawke: Back of the Van
 
 
I am Spartacus
06 October 2014 @ 01:50 am
"Hey, er... am I interrupting anything?"
I shrugged.  "Drinking.  But then, you're doing that, too."
"I mean, I don't want to interrupt anything..."
"Don't worry about it."
"Dude," he started, "you know you could just..."
I drank.
"I mean, it's obvious that you..."
"Off the ride, Man." I opened another bottle of whiskey.
 
 
Current Mood: listless
Current Music: David Bowie: Ashes to Ashes
 
 
I am Spartacus
24 August 2013 @ 10:43 pm
Man, things were fun back in the old days.

I've been looking back over this LiveJournal today and reliving some interesting experiences. I first got my account here back in 2002, when LJ was actually still an invite-only community. jenniever sent me the invite -- I'm not even quite sure why, really -- and I started this thing up. I was never really comfortable with it, though... whereas other people were able to post good spur-of-the-moment, emotional, well constructed entries, I had to edit mine to death, and generally deleted them rather than actually put them up. Most of what did get posted are so over-though and over-edited that they retain very little of what I'd initially intended.

Back then, the internet seemed so much more interesting, because I was just getting really "exposed" to it. I'd had email and so on before, yeah -- I had email as far back as 1996, using my old Commodore 128 -- but in 2002, I was just starting out with things like AIM and so on. I had just gotten, and was using, a Mac, and finding ways to do things on that machine -- and remember, this is 2002, not 2012, so Apple wasn't firmly entrenched as the consumer products monolith that it is now -- was frustrating, to say the least. Nothing was cross-compatible. You simply couldn't do video chat (I don't think there were even any webcams that worked with the Mac) or audio chat, and half the time simple things like file transfers between OSes ended hilariously bad half the time.

My machine, since that time, has gone from a poorly supported PowerMac to a well supported MacBook Pro (though I still use the Phoenix application to post to this), and when searching back through some of my bookmarks (which I have kept all these years), I find that most of the websites I used back then to supplement my search for software are defunct. Even LiveJournal seems largely defunct: exactly zero of the people that I was "friends" with on this are still using it, and even I have barely made any use of it in the past few years.

Not that anybody actually read it, anyway, mind you.

I have a blog called Just West of Hell. I used to write a semi-regular internet column and that site is what it has morphed into. I had, initially, hoped to use this LiveJournal for something of the sort, and then later decided that I would use it instead for "personal" kinds of entries. Neither really happened.

Everything now is Facebook and Twitter -- again, more things that I've never quite gotten the hang of -- so I don't know what to do with this elderly contraption of a blog. It's sitting here, it has a choice username (I mean, seriously, could it get better than ajh.livejournal.com?), and zero people read or use the thing anymore. I stopped paying for my premium membership because I didn't see the point, so most of the awesome userpics that I made are lost. Lord knows what else is.

I wish I could mirror the thing on my computer in case the LJ servers go teats up. That'd be excellent because, though I never could figure out how to use the thing, it is kind of a nice stroll down memory lane... though some of those memories, perhaps, I'd rather forget.

So I guess I'll just leave it here, languishing in the garbage dump of forgotten internet, like so many other people have. And when it eventually goes down -- like the sites I had at GeoCities, AOL Hometown and Longshot Productions -- I'll hope for a mirror or something to pop up somewhere. That's why half the pictures don't load anymore, you know, because they were hosted on my webspace at AOL Hometown or GeoCities. Eh, maybe the WayBackMachine can archive this... though it didn't archive my GeoCities or AOL pages.

I don't know, Man. I'm finding it hard to really put into words what I'm thinking. 2002 was so long ago. I've been through like four jobs, five living situations... a plethora of girlfriends and exes... and yet it sort of still seems like 2002 was just yesterday. Or maybe last week, more aptly. Near enough to actively feel the contrast.

Whatever. Carry on.

AJH
 
 
Current Mood: nostalgic
Current Music: Dire Straits: Once Upon a Time in the West
 
 
I am Spartacus
23 June 2012 @ 12:52 pm
Wait, when did this happen?


Ah, Yahoo. So many pointless changes, so few actual updates to your awful service.

AJH
 
 
 
I am Spartacus
18 March 2012 @ 11:15 am
Cracking the 2012 Pot
March, 2012


Harold Camping is a bit of a crackpot.

For those blissfully unaware (or outside of the United States, where people seem largely immune to this sort of ridiculosity), Harold Camping is an undead, five hundred-year-old Christian fundamentalist preacher who predicted that, on May 21, 2011, some two hundred million people would be “raptured” and rise, hilariously nude, to heaven while most of us would remain, clothed, on Earth to suffer God’s wrath and eventually die horrible (and presumably still clothed) deaths.

I hesitate to call him a fraud because of this, though there are plenty others that are happy to throw that label at him. Establishing an absolute date and time for your fraud to fall apart is kind of counter-productive to the whole “fraud” thing, you know? So I just call him a crackpot and leave it at that. His predictions made a lot of people uneasy, though, and I can’t really blame them… I think we all felt about the rapture much the same way we feel about getting an STD test: you know that your results are negative, but you still get a little nervous waiting for the phone call.

Some people weren’t so sure their test results were negative, though, and sold off their lives, devoting vast personal fortunes to spreading the word. When May 21 came and went, these people were justifiably miffed. So Harold did what any red-blooded, partially mummified American vampire would do: he “refined” his estimate and pushed it back a few months to October.

The uneventful passing of October hit Harold a bit hard. I kind of felt bad for him, actually, and considered baking him a “Sorry the World Didn’t End” Bundt cake, but then realized that I didn’t actually care all that much, nor do I know how to make a Bundt cake.

Harold Camping isn’t the only one getting caught up in the whole end-times thing, though, and a good deal of it is related to the fact that, a few years ago – around 35 BC – the Mayans made a calendar. They probably made their calendar for the same reasons that we do: to remember when to plant and harvest crops, celebrate anniversaries and holy days, and for noting when Doink the Clown will be signing autographs at the local high school. Except they made their calendar to last: lacking things like Wal-Mart – and paper – there was nowhere to buy a new calendar at the end of the year, so they just devised one really, really long calendar, probably out of rocks or clay or human skulls or something, and decided that was going to have to suffice for the foreseeable future.

And it did suffice, at least for the Mayans’ foreseeable future; the calendar is just now ending and I don’t see anybody still using it. I don’t see any Mayans at all, actually, and I think the only people still paying attention to the calendar are those trying to make a buck selling books and docu-dramas about the end of the world.

See, this extraordinarily long calendar, which began in August of 3114 BC, ends on December 21 of 2012… and that seems reasonable enough, considering that we now have computers and solar calculators and, you know, paper. The Mayans must’ve figured that, by now, we’d have the capability to mass-produce some new calendars with puppies on them, and they could all stop scrambling for places to chisel down their kids’ birthdays and doctor visits.

The Mayans didn’t believe that the end of their calendar marked the end of the world, though – in much the same way that the end of OUR calendars doesn’t mark the end of the world – and that’s something that everyone seems to be missing. The Mayans just looked at it as the end of a cycle, or an age, kind of like how we see the changing of the millennium. Once it was over, another one started, and away we go all over again.

This is where guys like Kalki Bhagavan come in. Again, for those of you who are unaware (as I was four minutes ago), Kalki Bhagavan is an Indian spiritual guru and some fifteen million people seem to think that he’s the tenth incarnation of Vishnu, the supreme god of Hinduism. Aside from recognizing the gloriousness of his beard, I don’t know enough about Kalki to call him either a crackpot or a fraud, so I’m not going to do either. What he’s done, though, is push 2012 as the deadline for human enlightenment to take place. According to Kalki and his group, the degenerate age of humanity (or Kali Yuga, for those interested in making my spell check convulse) is supposed to end, er, about now.

I like this interpretation a lot more than the doomsday prophecies because at least invisible planet Nibiru isn’t crashing through our heads, nor are aliens probing through our butts. I’m not ascending nude to heaven, suffering on earth, cowering in a bunker, or trying to analyze the dispersion of lettuce shreds on my McChicken sandwich for clues as to what to do. Instead, we just get a shiny new age of humanity to contend with. And it’s cool, because whatever this new, enlightened age brings, Rick Santorum’s got the porn aspect covered.

I hate saying his name, and I feel a little dirty just bringing him up because I don’t like to get into politics. Nothing makes me want the world to end more than politics, and there must be some serious end-time prophecy majumbo coming true if Rick Santorum is actually being considered by anyone with any kind of self-awareness for the presidency. If Harold Camping is a crackpot, then Rick Santorum’s entire earthenware cook set is completely pulverized.

Rick Santorum doesn’t like the idea of people having sex for reasons other than “the way things are supposed to be”, which, I suppose, means for the purpose of procreation, because he made that comment whilst discussing the evils of birth control. He particularly doesn’t like it when people do those sorts of things in the “sexual realm”, which I imagine is sort of like another dimension in the infinite multiverse, except populated with lots of sweaty dongs.

He also wants to crack down on porn, and that would be pretty devastating to the porn industry because 89% of it is made right here in the United States. He calls our culture’s acceptance of porn a “pandemic of harm”, though I prefer to think of it as a “porndemic of porn” because that’s much more fun to say. And lord knows that, when you’re a dorky looking potential presidential candidate faced with climate change, nuclear arms proliferation, domestic and foreign terrorism, and a broken economy, the thing that really matters is making sure people keep their tidy brown slacks appropriately zipped.

Here’s a thought: did you know that the porn industry in the United States makes something like 14 billion dollars a year? Worldwide, it’s closer to 100 billion, but 14 billion ain’t nothing to sneeze at, particularly when the United States is like 15 trillion dollars in debt. I bet that, if the government just turned its attention towards making porn instead of trying to regulate it out of existence, we could cancel out that debt in only like a thousand years! Plus, we’d be way too busy to spend inordinate sums of money on stuff like fighting wars. It could totally redefine our society, and maybe that’s what this new age of enlightenment should be about: making porn instead of war. And hey, at least if the world does end, we’ll all be having too much fun to take a lot of notice.

I kind of doubt Rick Santorum would be cool with that, and if there is a new world order coming, I’m not sure I really like his version of it, where we’ll all be nestled with our homogeneous, though absolutely heterogamous, family units, enjoying wholesome fun and appropriately zipped tidy brown slacks, without even so much as an obscene Scrabble game in sight. Honestly, I’ll take Harold Camping’s version of the end of the world over that any day. At least Harold Camping had people being flung around the skies nude.

One can only imagine the glorious, glorious porn that could be produced en route to heaven.

AJH
 
 
I am Spartacus
21 July 2011 @ 08:44 am
Lion  


This is the biggest damn shame about upgrading to OSX 10.7.

AJH
 
 
Current Mood: tired
Current Music: The Beatles: You Like Me Too Much
 
 
I am Spartacus
17 May 2011 @ 03:24 am
Note: This was written back in 2000 and, though I can't say things have changed much since then, I can report that -- thankfully -- Pro Beach Hockey was cancelled immediately after the 2000 season. Wikipedia states that it was canned because ESPN didn't like the ratings, but I like to think that it was because of the number of times I used to make fun of it in my columns.


Bringin' the Heat
May, 2000

Spring has been in the air now for close to a month (I know this primarily because I'm violently allergic to it) and summer looms menacingly around the corner. Old Mister Sun is starting to wake up, and he's staring down at us with his beady little eyes and his two scoops of raisins, ready to get it on.

We all look forward to summer, some of us more than others. It doesn't mean quite as much to me as it used to: when you're young, you know, you anticipate summer like it's almost a religious experience. Summer meant that school was out, you could finally sleep in and go to parties, lay out in the sun and drink hard alcohol from the bottle until parts of you were forcibly expelled through other parts of you. These days, though, in my decrepitude, all it really means to me is that I may have made a mistake when I didn't get my car's air conditioning recharged, and that the NHL season is over so I'm stuck watching Pro Beach Hockey.

There are, though, certain things that I do look forward to with the inevitable coming of summer… and I'm not at all certain that they're good things. Most of them concern some interesting, and entirely questionable, personal lifestyle choices made by various members of our society and most of them are also very definitely funny. Also, it gives me something to write about.

Well, that is, if this summer goes down anything like the last one.

A prime example of the type of questionable lifestyle choice I'm talking about occurred last summer. In case any of you don't remember it, for a few weeks last year we had a massive heat wave inside the toxic bubble that covers most of New Jersey, and for a few days the temperature climbed well into the triple-digit mark and power started going out thanks to the drain of a million non-Energy Star-compliant air conditioners.

Right in the full brunt of this lead-melting stretch of Venusian-esque heat, when the sun was brightest in the sky and you could cook a hearty homestyle breakfast on the sidewalk, thirty or forty people from around the state decided to get together. Not at the local pool, an air conditioned terrace or even the Venera 14 landing site. No, these people gathered on the middle of a stretch of scorching blacktop to have, of all things, a RACE.

A FIVE KILOMETER race.

On FOOT!

RUNNING!

IN the heat!

What were these people thinking, you might ask. I know I did, and it so happens that, to this day, I keep a quote from one of the runners highlighted on the community rant board. It was a quote given to a newspaper reporter that asked them what they were thinking, and was supposed to answer the question of "why?":

"Because we know we can do it."

… er, wait, what?

But… but if you know that you can do it, then why do you have to actually do it? Doesn't that seem kind of redundant, and sort of pointless? I mean, hey, look, I know I can jump out of an airborne Cessna without a parachute and tied to a Loony Toons anvil or a pack full of silverware or something, but I'm not going to actually do it. The knowledge that I can is plenty for me: anything else is superfluous, and I don't need a demonstration of my free-fall ability to otherwise convince myself of something that I already know that I can do.

I bet that one thing they also know they can do now is suffer from heat stroke.

On a different note, aside from the questionable lifestyle choices like the [dated] one above, with the slow churning of summer I also get to look forward to the return of a person who I like to call Crazy Lawnmower Man: the only guy on the face of the planet who, for some inexplicable reason, feels the urge to mow his lawn four times a week with the loudest, most elderly lawnmower in existence, and always when I have the windows open and am on the phone trying to have an important conversation.

The guy is a menace. Grass doesn't grow anywhere near as fast as he cuts the stuff, and to compensate he's taken to cutting other people's lawns, in a stop-and-go fashion: he stops when I close the windows and when I re-open them, the son of a bitch starts back up. For some reason, people don't seem to try to deter him from invading their yard with his wretched noise machine. He just doesn't quit: he even tried to mow my lawn, once, and not even baseballs lobbed at him from a second story window seemed to darken his mood.

He's not as bad as the chicken, though.

The chicken, you ask? Yes, the chicken: my avian wake-up call.

In the great wonder of biological diversity that is our planet, few creatures have achieved the level of pompous, loudmouthed arrogance that the male chicken has. The rooster is, and preferably will remain, the only bird in the known history of the universe that makes a blood-curdling, belching, Pavarotti-esque squawk at the same bloody time every frikkin' morning.

And my neighbors have one.

Actually, I'm of the belief that there have to be at least three roosters crowing in unison, possibly in harmony, and I believe they may have professional PA equipment: they live a few houses down and yet the decibel level in my bedroom each morning continues to rival what Sam Kinison would sound like were he alive and living inside your Eustachian tube.

That's a fun way to wake up.

My neighbors keep their, ehrm, roostershop quartet locked up in the basement during the winter because, I guess, roosters get cold or something. Maybe they spent the winter rehearsing. Either way, during the colder months, I never hear them. Come summer, though, the barnyard strikes back and the chickens take over with their clucking and yodeling and cocka-doodle-dooing…

What the hell am I look forward to summer for, anyway?!

The more I think about it, the more I realize that, Man, summer sucks! I can't sleep, thanks to my chicken friends; I can't communicate with anyone outside my house because of Crazy Lawnmower Man and his Crazy Lawnmower Noise; I can't even watch a reasonably entertaining game of hockey. What's summer good for, anyway?

I dunno, maybe it's not good for anything… but I've already got a nearly endless supply of eggs for cooking on the sidewalk and, by God, my lawn is immaculate.

I miss winter already.

AJH
 
 
I am Spartacus
14 January 2011 @ 07:08 pm
Elvis
March, 1998


There used to be this spider that lived in my bathroom. I'm not entirely sure what kind of spider he was -- the best resemblance I could find was that of a Tasmanian Cave Spider though, for all I know, he could be anything -- but, regardless of what species, he was a pretty frikkin' big spider. I mean, if you were to measure the diameter of his legs whilst stretched -- assuming you could get close enough to him to get his legs stretched out in the first place -- you'd have a spider of at least four or five feet across.

The usual scenario would go like this: I would wake up in the morning and groggily stumble into the shower. During that shower, my spider friend would feel it necessary to descend from his web into the shower with me. I would, mid-lather, notice him hanging three or four inches in front of my face. I would also notice that I'm naked, and then I would scream like a four year old girl and jump out of the shower.

I don't like to kill things, no matter how awful and creepy they are. I'm the kind of guy that'll go to extreme measures to capture a rogue living room bumblebee for release outside. The first dozen or so times the spider appeared, then, I took no action aside from going back to bed and crying for a while. This is not, however, a routine that is particularly conducive to starting one's day on a positive note, so I eventually started building up the nerve to try to relocate him.

Early attempts involved attempting to grab him with a pair of needle-nosed pliers, which were, for some reason, in the bathroom. The unfortunate result of this failed attempt was the loss of one of his legs -- a loss that he did not seem to mind much, though it gave me the jibblies. Several more attempts were made, over the following days, that included the use of cups, bags, boxes and glue, none of which were successful.

Out of desperation, one day I finally just shot him with the shower nozzle, hoping to knock him out of the way. Instead, though, he hit the tub and whirlpool'ed down the drain. Success, I thought! I'd finally gotten rid of him!

Until he came back the next day.

Eventually this became something of a game, finding new ways to try to get rid of him. One day I used the toilet brush to roll up his web, cotton candy style, and then flush him and his web down the toilet. Another time, I used a can of hair spray and a match to attempt a torching. I may have even, at one point, resorted to using bug spray.

Alas, it was all to no avail. No matter how many times he was killed, the sightings continued, like elderly Elvises (Elvi?) at shopping malls. In honor of this, and despite the fact that I question the sultriness of his hip gyrations, I named him Elvis.

One night I had just gotten home and was sitting at this very computer trying to do some kind of work, when I noticed something out of the corner of my eye, wandering across the keyboard. I was a rather bedraggled looking, seven-legged spider.

Elvis.

Before I could do anything, like emit a high-pitched scream, he had stumbled off the keyboard and was between the desk and the wall, where I couldn't get to him. Well, I figured, he can't stay there forever, and hopefully will just continue walking until he's in the open, and then I'll be able to get at him. I ran downstairs and got several utensils, a jar and a fly swatter, and when I came back I began the quest to find him. All for naught, though, as he was gone: I'd lost him.

Talk about paranoia. Talk about arachnophobia!

I sat crouched on my chair with a flyswatter in one hand, a flashlight in the other and several boxes and jars with which to confine him crammed around me, scanning the walls and floor for a spider I was certain would, at any moment, come screaming from the shadows dripping venom and hate. I was so paranoid I was actually looking inside my can of soda before I drank from it, as if a spider that was bigger than the can itself would somehow be able to nonchalantly wander into it and be waiting there for me. I couldn't just let it be: I knew, deep down, that if I left him alone, he'd come out when I least expected it. He'd come back to make life miserable.

After crouching awkwardly on my chair for fourteen or fifteen hours, I decided to finally give it a rest and try to get some sleep. I'd been looking for what felt like days and hadn't seen a thing. Deciding to make sure it actually was him, I checked the bathroom -- sure enough, he was not there. I returned, warily, to my bedroom, grabbed my flyswatter and flashlight, crossed them over my chest like I was some kind of exterminator pharaoh, and tried to drift off.

Sleep does not come easily when you've got Kumonga lurking in the shadows, though, and I found myself waking up randomly throughout the night in stark paranoia. I'd open my eyes, scan the room with the flashlight, and then try to get back to sleep. At 2AM, I again awoke, only this time there was something different.

Turning my flashlight on, I saw him. Hovering, Mission Impossible-style, on a web a mere three inches above my face loomed the giant, mildly singed, seven-legged spider. I stared at him for a moment and he stared back at me, the black of his eyes telling me that he was tired of being kicked around by some naked guy in the shower. It was payback time.

Frozen though I was, my hand slowly moved and reached for the flyswatter. I swung it blindly and nailed him: he flew off the swatter and against the wall, landing on the carpet. He wasn't dead, though he was a little discombobulated, staggering around drunkenly.

I got up and looked around. It was still dark in the room and I couldn't find any of the boxes or bottles. I couldn't just leave him alone, either. Stepping on him was out of the question -- I had no shoes on and he'd probably just grab my foot and throw me around if I tried -- so I opened the bedroom door and swung the flyswatter like a 9 iron, ejecting him from the room.

In my heroic swing, however, he sailed right across the hallway, back into the bathroom, and under the bathtub, which was one of those old-timey types with the feet. I warily shined my flashlight under the tub, but could see nothing clear except dust bunnies and wilted linoleum. I had to have taken him out, though -- nothing could survive a swatting like that. Elvis, ladies and gentlemen, had left the building.

Dateline, 9AM. Shower time. Happy that I'd rid myself of my gyrating, hunka-hunka blue suede spider once and for all, I gleefully hopped into the shower, cranking up the steam. After a few moments, mid-lather, I realized that, once again, there was a large, beat-up, mildly singled, seven-legged spider hanging three or four inches in front of me, and also that I was naked. I screamed like a four year old girl and jumped out of the shower. Grabbing the first thing I saw, an old magazine, and thwapped him out of the air. His lifeless body sailed quietly down the drain.

And I look forward to seeing him again tomorrow morning.

AJH
 
 
I am Spartacus
11 January 2011 @ 07:51 pm
Note: I wrote this bit in 2001, as part of my old Soapbox dealie. Since I recently noticed that the web page that hosted most of these chestnuts is gone (thank you, AOL), I figured that I would archive some of the more aromatic of the group here. This is, after all, supposed to be my blog and all.




The Starbucks Boycott

by Arthur J. Heller

July, 2001


Recently, people have been asking me why, specifically, I've been boycotting Starbucks for the past two years. I have insofar managed to not tell the story, on the grounds that it gets rather long and winding, is comprised of a nearly unbelievable series of events and, really, doesn't have all that much to do with Starbucks. With the latest query to be delivered to me, though, I figured I'd set the record straight, or at least less crooked than it was, on my one remaining boycott.

I suppose you could say that it all started with a storm.

In the latter portion of 1999, Hurricane Floyd arrived and beat the living bejesus out of New Jersey. Three things came from that, and from the fact that I live near a flood zone, which were that a) I found myself wading through five feet of cold water in my basement in a futile attempt to save my washing machine, b) I had to be removed from my house, at gunpoint, by National Guardsmen in rowboats and c) my closet got thwacked.

The third fact is the one that we're focusing on, and it is also probably the toughest to grasp. It helps to know that the ceiling in my closet is the other side of the roof of my house, and that driving rain doesn't do good things to the roof of a house that was built the same year that the Titanic sank. The natural result, anyway, was that, at various locations on the ceiling of my closet, water decided to come stomping in with fire-hose force, decimating everything in its wake and chipping the paint on one wall. These chips irritated me once I was allowed back in my house, so, as soon as my roof was put back on, I decided to do some repainting.

Now, though the walls of my bedroom are painted in the venerable "Colonial White", the walls of my closet are not. In fact, the closet was painted by those mysterious and Christmas-loving Tookers -- Dorothy, William and their teenage daughter, Cissy -- the inhabitants of my house during the sixties and early seventies, and who left a large portion of their belongings in my attic.

I didn't want to repaint the entire closet. Only one of the walls was marred, after all, and my cubicle-sized closet is far too small for me to stand in for extended periods of time without being either asphyxiated by the paint fumes or rendered suicidally claustrophobic, so I decided to just "touch-up" that one wall and call it a day.

And so I went to get a can of plain white paint, as any red-blooded American might, at the Home Depot... which is where the saga beings.

I was, to this point, unaware that "Fuchsia" had become a standard color. "Periwinkle", also, is apparently just around the corner from being deemed primary. "Burnt Umber" is no longer what you get when you, er, burn umber and, for some inexplicable reason, "Shark Blue" contains a mixture of seventeen different colors -- none of which are actually blue.

Not realizing any of this, I found myself in the paint section of the Home Depot, naively searching for white and not finding it. Though "Plain White" may have been a perfectly viable color when the Tookers first took it upon themselves to paint my house all those years ago, these days the "White" section of Home Depot is comprised of every imaginable shade of white EXCEPT "White". There's Colonial White, Off-White, Soft White, Hard White, Cloud, Picket Fence, Workspace Gray (which is really white and not, as you might guess, gray), Snow, Polar White, Overcast, Satin White, Paper, Virtue and Virgin (which are manufactured by the same company and are EXACTLY THE SAME)... God knows how many others, which is not even counting the "designer" shades, which could probably fill their own encyclopedia.

After about an hour of searching through endless swatch booklets and muttering expletives as I squinted to read the labels on the top shelves, twenty-five feet above my head, I decided to pull aside the only Home Depot employee not currently engaged in the task of cutting out small triangular pieces of green carpet (an act to which every other Home Depot employee seemed almost obscenely interested).

"I need white," I told him.

He fiddled with his clean orange apron and stared at me, so I repeated my statement. "I need white. Paint. I need white paint."

"Sorry," he shrugged. "I work in lumber." That said, he walked away.

You may be wondering what any of this has to do with Starbucks.

After flagging down numerous other orange-clad employees (all of which worked in lumber; apparently Home Depot's lumber section is vastly overstaffed at the expense of every other section), I was finally able to walk away with a shade of paint which was almost entirely not unlike white. I believe it was called "Wicket", or had the word "wicket" in the title somewhere. "Wicket" is not the kind of word that one forgets easily.

This took hours, of course, and required quite a bit of talking, snarling and inhaling sawdust, so by the time I got out of there, my throat was somewhat parched. While driving home, I noticed a Starbucks sitting inconspicuously in a mini-mall out the corner of my eye. I had never been in a Starbucks, but I had a tremendous thirst and assumed that it would be the closest place, geographically at least, to quench that thirst.

So I stopped. And so began my Starbucks adventure.

The line, which I was at the end of, stretched to the horizon and I found myself waiting, two counties away, behind a guy in a turtleneck who felt it entirely necessary to talk to me about poetry. I'm not a huge fan of poetry and it took two hours of him talking for me to realize that neither was he. The guy had never read anything that he liked. Ever. He began hour three of his dissertation when I interjected with my very own poem:

Before I make your vertebrae pop and displace,
Why don't you just get the fuck out of my face?

After a decade or so more of waiting, I finally got to the counter of the hellish coffee house and prepared to place my order. "Welcome to Starbucks," said the cheery girl with the perfect smile behind the counter. "What can I get you?"

"Er..." I looked around. There was lots of coffee, and I don't like coffee. "I'll just have a large chocolate milk."

She said nothing but simply looked at me with eyes that would have made an elderly sheep confident in his SAT scores. I told her what I wanted again. She looked at me again, still smiling, still with empty eyes, so I said it a third time, this... time... slowly... and... distinctly.

"Er..." she broke her silence finally, smile not flickering for a heartbeat. "Can I help you?"

"Chocolate milk!" I said, exasperated. "You know, you take chocolate and you mix it with milk... that white stuff you put IN coffee!"

I realized my mistake as soon as I made it: I should have learned from my week in Home Depot that there was no such thing as white, and to try explaining the concept of a non-color to an employee of Starbucks was easily as effective as trying to mow gravel.

"Wicket," I backpedaled. "Er... off-white. Virgin! That workspace gray stuff you put in coffee!"

"Ah," she continued smiling, and set about making my drink.

I don't know if you have any idea of what it's like to take a big gulp of chocolate-flavored hazelnut dairy creamer, but it was enough to make me swear off Starbucks for the rest of my natural life.

AJH