Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - The Revenge of the Ex

Prior to meeting my father, the various guys my mom, Diane Thirty nee Lebowski dated in her youth were not always the best and brightest mankind had to offer. I obviously do not know this from personal experience, as I did not exist prior to my mother meeting my father (unless I am able to experience time travel at some point, in which case my future self may exist at some point in the past prior to my mother meeting my father, but this is unlikely). For example, one skeleton from my mother's closet (not actually a skeleton as far as I know) was heard to suggest that the best solution to the escalating Three Mile Island problem would be to "just nuke it and get it over with." He was serious about this, not joking. There is a reason this man is my mom's ex instead of my father.

The ex-boyfriend in this story may be this very same guy, but then again, he could be another less-than-awesome person. Suffice it to say, the guy in this story is not somebody you'd call classy. Anyway, let's give this guy a name for the purposes of the story. I don't know his real name to modify into a fake name, so this name is completely arbitrary. How about.... hmm... Louie Assbutt. OK, so at the time of this story, my mother had just recently broken up with Louie Assbutt and he was less than pleased about this.

Now as it happens, Louie was at the local YMCA one evening and he ran into none other than his ex-girlfriend's youngest brother (about 15 or 16 at the time) Stephen "Hulka" Lebowski and his best friend, Eric Zealand. I'm not going to bother linking to the past Hulka stories on this blog right now because seriously, it's not that hard to scroll down (OK, I lied). Hulka and Eric had come to the YMCA to work on getting buff so they could score with lots of chicks, or at least this is how they imagined the process working out. Louie saw in Hulka an opportunity not for buffness and scoring with chicks, but for revenge.

Louie asked these lads several years his junior what their plans for the evening were, and offered to replace those plans with a trip to the bar if they were so inclined. Hulka was delighted at the chance to drink underage someplace he would not usually be able to do so. Eric was leery, being both more timid and with better judgment than Hulka. Something about this older man offering to take out two mid-teens with whom his only contact was via his recent ex-girlfriend struck Eric as suspicious. Also, he told his parents he would be at the Y and did not want to get in trouble. So Hulka and Eric parted ways here, thinking each other an idiot and a wuss, respectively.

Off went young Hulka with Louie Assbutt to a local dive bar, one where nobody would question the age of the kid sitting there drinking as long as he wasn't buying the drinks for himself. And Louie asked Hulka what he would like to drink on this fine evening. Hulka, for all of the beers he'd snuck up to this point in his life, realized he wasn't exactly sure what adults drank in bars, at least not cool adults. Wanting to look cool enough to be out at a cool bar with this cool guy, Hulka told him that he would have "whatever you're having, dude." And so Louie Assbutt's diabolical plan began to unfold.

Louie told Hulka he was drinking tequila shots and ordered round after round for the two of them. However, Louie wasn't exactly honest. While Hulka was downing tequila, Louie switched after the first shot and enjoyed the refreshing taste of Peachtree Schnapps for the rest of the night, which has about 50% the alcohol content of tequila. This fact, coupled with the gross differences in age and drinking experience meant that while Louie got mildly inebriated, Hulka got shitfaced. And so, his mission half complete, Louie Assbutt loaded Hulka, so drunk he couldn't even see straight, into his car.

Next would come phase 2 of the revenge: bring drunk Hulka back to his home. Because that'll teach the bitch to break up with him! Get her 15-year-old brother drunk and bring him home. As diabolical plans go, this one was no Death Star. Hell, it wasn't even a Death Pebble. Anyway, Louie and Hulka rode up to the Lebowski residence, which had at that time a gravel driveway. Louie put his car in park and asked Hulka if he was ok to walk himself in. Hulka replied something that sounded like, "eeah, am fan" which was probably intended to be along the lines of "yeah, I'm fine," muffled through inebriation and the fact that Hulka's face was planted snugly against the dashboard of the vehicle. With great effort, he managed to get himself out of the car and steady himself with one hand on the roof. Once again, Louie Assbutt asked Hulka if he was alright. Once again Hulka assured him he was completely fine. And then fell like a redwood facefirst into the gravel driveway.

Louie was not a totally heartless monster. He knew that this kid wasn't actually responsible for his oldest sister kicking him to the curb. He couldn't leave him face down in a gravel driveway. So he got out of his car and, with effort, hefted Hulka up onto his shoulder. Together they slogged forward towards the front door of the Lebowski household, where most of the residents were sound asleep. Upon reaching the door, Louie stood Hulka up straight. When that failed, he propped him up against the door much like how one might lean a sack of potatoes against a pantry wall. His young charge/revenge secured, Louie Assbutt quickly rang the doorbell, hopped back in his car, and vanished into the night.

Hulka, meanwhile, was not quite home yet. He face was pressed as close to home as one can really get, but he wasn't quite there. Luckily for him, it was only a matter of moments before the door he was leaning on opened and he tumbled forward into the loving, gentle arms of his father, Dave Lebowski Sr. Dave looked down into the face of his youngest son, reddened by alcohol with small flecks of blood and gravel peppering his face from his earlier fall. Hulka's eyes flickered, trying to open and see his mysterious benefactor, but ultimately failing. So Hulka, slurring his words, asked one favor of this unknown Samaritan:

"Don't wake my father. He's such an asshole."

Epilogue: Dave, being the kindly father that he was, dragged his son down the hall to his bedroom and heaved him onto his bed to let him sleep off the night of mild alcohol poisoning.

Epilogue 2: Dave, being the Lebowski that he was, woke his son up at 5:30 AM, forced him to eat bacon and eggs, and had him spend the next day doing an assload of chores.

Epilogue 3: My mother found a better guy named Steve Thirty, married him, and had an awesome son and an almost-as-awesome daughter.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Thinking With Portals

I have been playing a game for the past few days called Portal. This game is available for the 360 and for computers, and it is awesome. Basically it's a puzzle adventure game that runs on the Source game engine. Playing the game consists of creating and using portals from a portal gun to move yourself and other objects instantly between two flat surfaces. Only 2 portals can be open at a time, orange and blue, and they connect to each other. Opening a new portal of a color closes the previous portal of the same color. Momentum is preserved upon passing through a portal, allowing for some really neat movement tricks, such as falling from a high platform to build up speed, passing through a portal you've opened one end of on the floor and the other end on a high wall to launch across the room. Along the way you must contend with electrified water pits, robotic turret guns, weighted cubes, a weighted companion cube, bouncing energy balls, and a darkly hilarious AI named GLaDOS who guides you through the challenges.

As you play through the game, your thinking changes subtly. You see new possibilities where there weren't any before. You learn to think with portals. For example, in real life, if you wanted to get to one end of a long room from another, you'd walk the distance. Thinking with portals, though, you'd use your portal gun to open a portal at the near end of the room and another at the far end then use the portal, eliminating the need for a time-consuming walk. Of course, the brain likes to borrow successful strategies from one part of life (or fiction) and apply them to other parts, so I have been thinking with portals in real life (unable to do anything with these thoughts, of course).

Here are some of the thoughts I've had for how portals could be used in interesting, useful, or funny ways in real life:

  • The Portal Backpack: Attach arm straps to a flat board. Open one portal on the board. Open the other in a closet or similarly large storage space. Carry around access to a much larger storage area than ever possible before.
  • The Infinite Waterfall: Open one portal on the floor, another on the ceiling. Get a hose and start pouring water into the infinite loop you've opened. The water will fall forever!
  • The No-Need-For-Wireless: Open one portal near your modem, the other near your computer, anywhere you are. Run an ethernet cable through the portals. No need for unreliable wireless networks now.
  • The Stole-This-Idea-From-The-Simpsons: Open one portal in front of a toilet or urinal, the other in front of yourself. Stand and deliver.
  • The Home Away From Home: Get a truck or van with enough space on a surface to open a portal (the roof a normal car might work too) and open one. Open the other end in your home. Anywhere you drive, you're already home.
  • The Elaborate Coyote: Construct a box of sorts that is tall and wide but very narrow. On the inside of one of the large flat panels, paint a picture that looks like a hallway or open space. On the other inside flat panel, place open a portal. Close up the box. Open the other portal anywhere. Watch idiots try to walk through the portal and hit the painted wall. The portals ensure forced perspective of the painting.
  • The Sunny Basement: Open one portal on the ceiling of your basement or other windowless room. Open another portal outdoors under a sheet of clear plastic, glass, etc. to prevent rain or animals from passing through. Enjoy natural light in any room.
  • The Art Vandelay: Travel to another country. Open a portal in the business or residence of a trusted associate. Open another at home, upon returning stateside. You are now an importer/exporter. This one is not strictly legal.
  • The Fail Safe: Purchase a large safe and place a portal at the back, then cover it with a weak or removable false wall. Open the other portal someplace convenient and private for you. Re-sell the safe. Take, take, take. This one is even less legal.
  • The Moon Cartographer: Travel to the moon somehow. Open a portal. Return to Earth. Open another portal. Purchase cartography equipment. At your leisure, create a detailed map of the moon.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - Brown Bagging It

As we learned last time, Steve "Hulka" Lebowski aka "Lebo" and his best friend Eric Zealand were drinking (or at least acquiring alcohol and failing to drink it) since their early teens. As they got a little older, this didn't change. This story comes chronologically later than the one that will come next, "The Revenge of the Ex", but it's briefer and the last entry was so long I thought I'd do a shorter entry this time. Anyway, at this point, Hulka and Eric were in their junior or senior year of high school, and all of the members of their class were going on a (junior or senior)-class ski trip. They loaded onto a bus and went to a ski resort town where they booked most of a motel for the students. Hulka, because of his size, was as usual asked to go to a package store and pass for older to obtain booze for his classmates. If he succeeded he would be the hero of his high school class. If he failed, there were several teachers on the trip as chaperones, and consequences could be dire.

So Hulka and Eric left the motel and walked into town, eyes and ears keen for any sign of authority figures. The trip was uneventful, and once there they set to work picking out various bottles of spirits to delight and inebriate their classmates. When all was said and done, Hulka had obtained two big brown paper shopping bags full of booze. And he was feeling a mite peckish at the time, so he also bought two bags of pork rinds, which would not only be a special treat for dear Hulka, but would also sit on top of the booze in the bags and block prying eyes from seeing the "true" contents of the paper vessels.

As they walked back towards the motel, Hulka and Eric glowed with pride. They had come through for their peers, and no doubt they would be rewarded. Their jubilation was cut short however, because they realized that the two men who were walking towards them on the sidewalk going the opposite way were in fact two of their teachers. It was too late to change course to avoid them. Doom was certain.

Eric was gripped by fear. "Lebo, what the hell are we gonna do? We're screwed! We're so screwed!" he hissed to his friend as the chaperones drew ever nearer. "I don't know Eric, just shut up, here they come," replied Hulka in a whisper.

"Gentlemen," greeted one of the teachers.

"Oh hey! Fancy meeting you here!" returned Hulka, hiding his panic perfectly.

"Indeed, Stephen. And how are you boys?"

"Great, great. This is a great town, isn't it?"

"It is. And are you enjoying the trip so far?"

"Oh yeah, definitely. We're having a blast, just heading back up to the rooms now."

"Good, good... say, boys... What's in the bags?"

Their hearts stopped. They were trapped. If they lied, the teachers could just look in the bags and catch them in the lie. But they couldn't just turn the alcohol over either, that wouldn't save them from the unholy hell they would catch for such an egregious infraction. Not just from the school, but from their parents as well! Eric silently made peace with his creator and prepared for the worst. Hulka decided he would try one last gambit. It was a long shot, but it was the only shot. He steeled his nerve, looked his teachers in the eyes, and in his best false bravado voice said the only thing he really could say:

"Plenty of alcohol!"

Time, like their hearts seconds earlier, stopped. For a half-second that lasted eons, the teachers' faces remained impassive, their voices silent. The only sound during this temporal stand-still was the pounding of Hulka and Eric's hearts in their chests.

The eternity/moment of silence was shattered when one of the chaperones burst out laughing, joined nearly immediately by the other. "Good one, Stephen!" joked the first one to laugh, not believing for a second that his student would be dumb enough to actually tell them he had two shopping bags full of alcohol on him, underage, on a dry ski trip. Hulka and Eric, realizing it worked, joined their teachers in laughing at the "joke."

"Alright you kids, we'll see you later. Take care!" and off they went, leaving Hulka and Eric alone with their two bags of booze. They had escaped. They would be heroes.

... and the truth will set you free.

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Tales From The Lebowskis - The Beer in the Barn

And so, at last, we move on from Great Jaja stories to tales of other Lebowskis. Now don't worry, we haven't seen the last of Great Jaja Adventures. Great Jaja will be back in all his plaid-pantsed glory at some point in the future. But today's story focuses on Great Jaja's grandson, introduced in the 2nd Great Jaja Adventure: Steve "Hulka" Lebowski. Hulka is a big guy. A really big guy. He always has been a big guy. So when Hulka was 13 or 14, he could pass for older. Old enough that lax liquor store owners (and in the 70's, they were pretty much all lax from what I understand) wouldn't particularly bother to check the age of their eager young patron.

One fine day, Hulka and his best friend and semi-willing partner-in-crime Eric Zealand decided they would undertake a dangerous mission: they were going to ride their bikes to the local package store, buy beer, and drink it. The plan was obviously flawless. So this stalwart pair of early teens set off, bravely cycling towards destiny. They arrived as planned, and Hulka ventured into the store to make the pick-up, leaving Eric who actually did look his age outside. Calling on his 13 or so years of experience, he selected a case of beer that looked good, and approached the register. To his delight, the cashier processed the transaction without any questions as to his age. He emerged from the store victorious, and joined an awestruck and grateful Eric. Not so awestruck and grateful that he was going to carry the case on his bike and risk getting caught, though.

They set off with their score, Eric filled with nervous anticipation, and Hulka huffing and cursing as he tried to balance a case of beer on the handlebars of his bicycle as they rode through their small town. They navigated the roads, avoiding areas of likely discovery, and finally mounted the steep damn hill that the Lebowskis lived on (no easy feat with a case of beer and a bicycle, or so I'm told). The two boys ducked into the barn located a little ways down the hill from Lebowski house with their prize and realized they had made a miscalculation. Eric was expected home for dinner shortly, and certainly couldn't show up drunk. The two friends decided to hide the beer somewhere in the barn temporarily, split up and go to their respective houses for dinner, then return later that night to enjoy the fruits of their efforts.

They began looking for a good hiding spot all over the barn. One that would be invisible to the unknowing eye, but easy enough to find again for the rightful owners of the treasured beer. Hulka absently dug through a pile of hay and came across a metal tool chest. This thing was old and forgotten, it was covered in rust and clearly hadn't been used within the last decade or so. "Eric!" called Hulka, "Come here, look at this!" Eric brought the case over as Hulka, with effort, forced the box to open against the squealed complaints of the rusted hinges. There was nothing inside but cobwebs and dust, quickly cleared away. And the interior was just big enough to hold one case of beer. It was as though some divine force had provided Hulka and Eric with a blessing for their plans of (very) underage drinking.

They secured the beer within the chest and reburied it in the hay. They carefully marked the spot with some hay strands in a way that would appear random to anyone snooping, but that would be recognizable to Hulka and Eric when they returned later. Immensely pleased with themselves, Hulka and Eric parted ways and joined their respective families for dinner.

Later that evening, they met again in the barn as previously agreed. Now giddy with excitement, they approached the hay pile and began digging for their prize. They quickly found the metal chest that held their beer, and pausing just for a brief second to take in the enormity of their caper, they creaked open the box once more. The joy on their faces changed almost instantly to confusion and disbelief. The chest was completely empty. Not only was the beer gone, there was no sign it had ever been there in the first place. They looked at eachother in shock. Surely there must be some mistake. It had to be there. They forced the lid to creak shut again, and immediately forced it back open, looking again as though somehow they could've missed it the first time. Unsurprisingly, it was still gone.

"Lebo," started a heartbroken Eric, using another of Hulka's nicknames (actually, he didn't even have the nickname Hulka at the time), "I think someone stole our beer."

"No!" replied Hulka, steeling his resolve against crushing disappointment, "somebody just came and moved it, that's all!"

"Lebo, why would somebody move our beer? That doesn't make any sense."

"They moved it, Eric! They moved it and we have to find it. It's here somewhere, I know it!"

"Steve, I don't think someone would find our beer and just hide it somewhere else in the barn."

"Eric, god damn it, help me find this beer. It's here, it's here somewhere!"

And so they looked. They looked in the hay, they looked under benches and tables, they looked in cabinets, they looked in wheelbarrows, they looked everywhere. They checked, re-checked, and re-re-checked the hidden metal toolchest about a thousand times, each time opening and closing it more smoothly and with less creaking as they wore the rust off the hinges. They scoured the barn until darkness stopped their efforts.

"Steve, it's dark. The beer's gone, and I want to go home."

"Don't be a puss, we have to keep looking. I'll go get some flashlights."

"Steve, this is retarded. If anyone took it, they left with it and drank it."

"I'm going to get flashlights. Keep looking."

"...God damn it."

So Hulka trudged up to the house to obtain flashlights. He looked around but had trouble finding any, so he had to ask the man he most feared would discover his and Eric's exploits: his father. You may remember Dave Lebowski Sr. from his brief but important role in "Tree Hunting". Dave, or Jaja to me and his other grandchildren, is a lot like his father John/Great Jaja. Gruff, practical, and kind of an asshole sometimes. But he's a terrific guy besides all that. So of course he excused himself from his friend, Leo Bootywitz (also from "Tree Hunting") and helped his son find flashlights. But he wanted to know what they needed them for, so he gently asked.

"What the hell you need goddamn flashlights for?"

"Burglars, Dad. Eric and I think there's some burglars prowling around down near the barn."

"Oh, shit, well you better go catch them damn burglars then," instructed Dave while laughing.

So off went Hulka, back to the barn to rejoin Eric with flashlights. And they kept looking. And they looked some more. And they kept going back to the box, opening and checking again, as though it would magically reappear where they left it. And by now the box opened completely smoothly and with no hint of a creak sound at all. As Hulka tried to convince Eric to crawl further into a crawlspace up in the 2nd floor/rafters area of the barn, the flashlight batteries died. Eric, tired and filthy, pleaded with his friend to call it quits.

"Steve, please. We've checked everywhere. It's late and I'm tired and I want to go home."

"No, Eric," replied Hulka, fighting back tears of frustration and disappointment, "it has to be here somewhere. You can't quit on me now, we need to find it."

"Steve, the flashlights are dead, this is pointless."

"I'll get more batteries. I'll get more. Just don't give up on me, man."

And up he went back to the house. And he rummaged around and found some batteries while Dave Sr. looked on, amused.

"You catch them damn burglars yet?"

"It's not burglars, Dad. It's ghosts."

"Ghosts? Oh, well shit, you better get back down there. Catch them ghosts."

It didn't matter that his father obviously didn't believe his lies. What mattered was that he wasn't pushing the issue, so Hulka and Eric were free to continue the search. And continue they did, well on into the night. Finally, completely defeated and exhausted, spirits totally broken, Hulka and Eric gave up the search and went home to their respective beds to sleep an unsatisfied, tortured sleep.

The end.


No, not quite. Ten years later, Hulka and Eric were visiting at Nonnie (my grandmother, Mary Lebowski nee Jerboa) and Jaja's house and recounting the events of that evening, now old enough that any consequences were a thing of the past. Hearing the tale, Jaja finally related the truth of the matter to his son.

It seems that Hulka and Eric were spotting sneaking into the barn on their initial hiding trip by Dave Sr./Jaja and Leo. They couldn't see exactly what was going on, but they could tell there were suspicious dealings afoot. So some time after Hulka and Eric split up for dinner, Dave and Leo made an expedition to the barn to check the situation out. I should mention here that Leo is one lanky dude. His arms and legs would be proportionate on a giraffe. When they started looking around the barn for signs of Hulka's misdeeds, it wasn't long before Leo decided to check the haystack. In went his Dhalsim-like arm and immediately his hand felt something metal and cool. He quickly cleared the hay off and opened the fateful tool chest.

"Dave. There's beer in here! And it's cold!"

Dave came over to look, and sure enough, a case of beer was sitting there, staring them in the face.

"What do you want to do with it, Dave? Call Steve down here and show him what we found?"

The answer didn't even need consideration: "Hell no, we're going to drink it!"

And so, for the rest of the night, while Hulka and Eric tried harder to find their beer than they ever tried at anything else in their lives, Dave Sr. and Leo were sitting back, enjoying a case of free beer, and laughing their asses off at them.