Monday, June 28, 2010

Tales From The Lebowskis - Their House (In The Middle of Their Street)

From the mid-1960's to the mid-1970's, the Lebowski family lived in a great big house (3 stories, 6 bed, 8 bath) that I've never seen the inside of. Seven people (two parents, five children) is a big family, and a large house would be reasonable for a large family, but this house also doubled as a care facility for several adult patients that my grandmother, Mary Lebowski was responsible for (she was an RN who basically ran a mini-rest home in her own home for a few wards of the state). It is a constant sadness to me that I never got the chance to visit this house (it is now occupied by a privately owned business, although my aunt Pappy does visit sometimes for her work, which is nice for her). It sounds like a fun place where lots of interesting things occurred. I'd like to walk you through some of the highlights.

The living arrangements were as follows. The basement was a basement, and had laundry machines. The first floor was the main living area with kitchen, dining room, etc. The 2nd floor had bedrooms for Nonnie, Jaja, their two sons David and Stephen (Hulka), and the patients. The third floor, accessed via a flight of stairs with each step painted a different bright color, housed my mother, Diane, and her two sisters, Susan and Patty (Pappy). The bulk of the third floor was Patty and Susan's room, which was enormous. My mother's room (she desperately wanted her own room, being the oldest) was tiny, like a broom closet. Because it was her VERY OWN ROOM, she got to paint it any color she liked. She chose lavender. Apparently this tiny room was extremely lavender. It was once described by David as "so damn purple, Prince and Barney would spew."

Having the patients live in the house provided Nonnie and Jaja with convenient watchful eyes when they wanted or needed to get out of the house. If you think about this, though, the patients living there were wards of the state. Hulka likes to point out that they were, "frequently left in the care of individuals the state deemed unfit to care for themselves." One patient's entire babysitting strategy was slap a box of cigarettes in his hand and demand that the children "get off my floor!" should they venture to play on the 2nd floor.

The first floor of the house, as stated earlier, was where the daily living took place. With 5 kids and 4 or so patients, Nonnie and Jaja thought it economical to invest in a milk machine, the type you might see in a college dining hall. They'd buy enormous bags of milk, load them in, and then the milk would freely dispense from it's tube when the lever was pressed. Susan perfected a trick she would demonstrate for Hulka where she would milk the milk machine. She would grip the pouring tube as if it were a cow's udder and use the "milking" motion to nudge the lever with her elbow. Classic misdirection. Hulka's use of the milk machine was more direct: he liked to wrap his lips around the tube and hit the lever.

The outside of the house was apparently full of memories too. It featured a built-in pool, for one thing. However, Nonnie lived in perpetual fear that young Hulka would have dangerous mishaps given any chances (this was a somewhat justified fear, given little Hulka's fearlessness, which is probably better described as obliviousness to danger rather than "bravery" per se. He once, at age 3 or so, held a Vietnam protest parade which consisted of walking the median line of the busy street the house was on holding a flower. Tractor trailers honked their support, he assures me.). As a result, the pool was not allowed to be filled beyond a couple of inches of water. Poor innocent Hulka might've drowned otherwise.

In addition to a pool, the yard also had a fountain. This fountain, like the pool, had much less water in it than it should, by design, have held. It held zero water. I do not know if this was another deliberate Hulka-proofing on my grandmother's part or not, but I do know that according to my mother, aunts, and uncles, an empty fountain has some great hide-and-seek possibilities.

Another outdoor highlight was a very tall evergreen tree. This tree was not a highlight on it's own, it was rather the site of an escapade involving my mother's cousin Jimmy Sownd. Young Jimmy was apparently an expert climber and a bit of a little shit. On this particular occasion, he managed to climb all the way to the very top of the tree, clinging not to a branch but to the central tree trunk, at that height so thin and flexible that he was reportedly swinging from side to side, rocking the top of the tree, shouting not with fear, but with glee. His father, George "Gorilla" Sownd demanded he climb down, a demand which was summarily dismissed. Uncle George was nicknamed Gorilla for a reason: he was built like one. The man called Gorilla was FULLY displeased at having to climb two full stories up a tree to haul his monkey-swinging son down. I'm pretty sure Jimmy's ass got beaten to hell and back for that one (it was a different time).

As if these weren't enough outdoor items of note, the backyard also featured a life-sized statue of the Madonna (the religious figure, not the singer), and an enormous D.O.T.-orange trash barrel. This barrel was notable for moonlighting as a swimming pool for the kids (since the real pool could not be filled, as mentioned above) and as a vehicle of sorts. A favorite game of the Lebowski children was to load a child or two into the barrel, turned on it's side, and send it rolling down the hill, most frequently to come to a sudden and clanging stop at the propane tank. This may sound dangerous, but the kids were sure to run a series of tests before attempting this. The tests consisted of getting their neighbor and friend, Sally Bigalow to do exactly this dangerous thing first. This was a valid strategy for a number of potentially hazardous outdoor activities, I hear.

My favorite detail about the Lebowski house of those days, saved for last, is the fact that it had a laundry chute. I always thought laundry chutes were really cool when I was younger, because it was a legitimate excuse to drop things from a fair height, usually a no-no. But this laundry chute was special. It ran from the 2nd floor to the basement ceiling, with an opening on the first floor as well. In about 1970 or so, the Lebowski children needed to find out just how valid a shortcut from the 2nd floor to the basement the laundry chute would be. Sally Bigalow must not have been available, because the test pilot for this mission was none other than Hulka, 6 or 7 years old at the time.

The four assistants made sure there was plenty of laundry at the bottom of the chute to cushion the landing. A few bedsheets and a pair of underwear was probably enough, right? The intrepid young sailor of gravity gave his thumbs up and he was hoisted into the chute to make his rapid headfirst descent. What the kids didn't realize was that about halfway down the chute, it narrowed. Hulka did not. Firmly lodged upside down in the chute, Hulka awaited rescue by his siblings. They tried valiantly to free him, eventually resorting to using a broom to try to push him through the narrow segment to freedom. Hulka reports that he wishes they'd used the other end of the broom, and that the handle didn't even buy him dinner or call him after the time they had together.

Eventually, Hulka was freed, relatively none the worse for wear. But it's a pretty unique family of five kids that sends the youngest brother down a laundry chute just to see what would happen. Or maybe not so unique. You should ask my dad's brother Sean Thirty about that.

Monday, June 21, 2010

The Superhero Films I Would've Made Instead


So, let's get right out in front of it. I love geeky things. Always have, always will. I don't love geeky things exclusively, I love lots of things, but that "lots of things" always has and always will include lots of geeky things. One of the geeky things I've loved since childhood is the world of comic books and superheroes. I watched the cartoons, I collected the comic books, I had action figures, a few trading cards, posters, a subscription to Wizard magazine. I would draw my heroes in all sorts of notebooks, existing ones and ones of my own creation. I think of superheroes as the mythology of our culture, just like the Greeks, the Romans, the Egyptians, the Vikings all had their own tales of heroes and villains with powers far beyond those of normal mortals. Hell, comic books even co-opted some of those very characters and they fit right in (off the top of my head, Thor, Loki, Hercules, and Count Dracula [I know, he's not ancient mythology, but based off of Slavic folklore] have all played at least somewhat major roles in the Marvel universe).

You can imagine my delight at the explosion of the superhero movie genre starting with about the turn of the 21st century. It helped immensely that my favorite superheroes, the X-Men, were the ones that really kicked off this trend. X-Men was a solid comic book movie. X2: X-Men United was even better. Spider-Man was a good comic book movie. Spider-Man 2 was even better. Sure there were some shitty movies mixed in (what up, Ang Lee's Hulk? Oh sorry, is that you, Fantastic Four?) but on the whole, superhero movies were on the rise. Some were incredible. Sin City, Batman Begins and The Dark Knight, Iron Man... and yes, I'm jumping all over the place chronologically, deal with it.

Not all the superhero movies have been wholly satisfying for me though. Some, while not being outright piles of crap, are not what they should've been either. Let's chat for a minute about two films I wish I could turn back time on and make a different movie instead, and two films that don't yet exist, but that I have ideas for.

X-Men: The Last Stand was garbage. It did have moments, aspects I enjoyed, absolutely. But compare Brett Ratner's foray into the world of the merry mutants (who am I talking like here, Stan frickin' Lee?) with Bryan Singer's two entries. Night and day. This is, of course, barring the fact that Halle Berry, while a gifted actress, is a terrible Storm in all of them. But I'm not here to run down my list of complaints with this movie, I'm here to say what I would do differently.

For one thing, I would've slowed the events down. OK, Jean "dies" at the end of 2. Perfect. We're building up to the Phoenix stuff. So in 3, let's bring her back already so quickly we barely missed her, fly right through Phoenix and go straight to Dark Phoenix. If we're lucky, we'll hardly feel anything at all. Contracts be damned, I would've had Jean Grey stay dead for the entirety of the third movie. How will we miss her if she's never gone? I would've brought her back in a fourth film as Phoenix (and I'm not being a canon fanboy, let's find a way to do this that works in a live action film and doesn't seem comic book-y and schlocky) and let her spend that entire film as Phoenix. Maybe hint at the fact that she has a little bit of issues controlling the power, but keep that to foreshadowing for a fifth film, wherein Dark Phoenix is THE plotline. Not a subthread of Magneto taking over Alcatraz.

I would've also focused less on Wolverine. I know he's the cash cow of the X-Men franchise and I wouldn't write him out, but let's work with an ensemble a little here, folks. We had 3 Wolverine movies, and then a Wolverine movie, because we might not have gotten enough Wolverine (don't get me wrong, great character and Hugh Jackman is great in the role). Could we give Storm an actual character please (and maybe a different actress while we're at it)? Could we not kill Cyclops off screen, a death to which nobody particularly reacts? The strength of the X-Men media has been the fact that they're a team and the personalities play off each other and it's not just one person in the spotlight. I love Wolverine but let's build up the others a bit and give them more to do in my imagined movie.

So what WOULD I have done for a plotline? Sentinels. Not necessarily the hulking purple tin soldiers of the comics and the cartoon, probably smaller and sleeker. More human sized. Hell, have them be modified humans like the Sentinels in the Operation: Zero Tolerance plotline. If we need to give Magneto something villainous to do because he's getting too likable after teaming up with the X-Men in the second film, have him hijack the Sentinels partway through for his own purposes. We can even keep the mutant cure plotline maybe, because nothing is going to make you want to cure your mutancy like robots designed to capture or kill you unless you're a normal human. Adds a whole new level of urgency to the decision, no? The thing I like about the Sentinels is it would build on the themes of prejudice vs. acceptance from the first two films. Humans create the Sentinels because they fear the mutants. The mutants are forced to fight for their lives, which reinforces the idea that they're dangerous, etc. etc. And I would've waited for Byran Singer to finish his other commitment then direct the movie LIKE HE WANTED TO DO rather than get impatient and bring that hack Ratner on board.

Spider-Man 3 was a mediocre film. What would I do differently? Not that much actually, except ask Sam Raimi to make two awesome Spider-Man movies instead of one rushed, jumbled Spider-Man movie. Did we really need the New Goblin, the Sandman, and Venom all in the same film? My complaints about the way it went down are summed up best in the movie scene when Sandman and Venom's teaming up is established with a 15-second scene in an alley where they meet by chance and basically go "Hey, you hate Spider-Man too, right?" Come on, guys. So yes, introduce the black symbiote suit and let that be the major plot here. Give me Sandman. Sure, maybe even New Goblin. And yes, give me Eddie Brock. But DO NOT MAKE HIM VENOM YET. Let this movie establish his rivalry and jealousy towards Peter. Let this movie establish the black symbiote costume. Let the final scene of the film be the embittered, angry Eddie Brock encountering the symbiote for the first time and set up for Spider-Man 4, the Venom one.

They're working on a Captain America movie. I don't know a whole lot about it other than I saw some pretty decent concept art for Cap's costume. I don't think they're going the way I envision for this movie (although maybe they are and they'll surprise me), but what I wanted, to really stand out amongst a crowded field of superhero movies, was a period piece. Captain America works best in World War II. His nationalist get-up screams pro-American forces propaganda (I'm using propaganda here without negative connotations, I'm very much on the side of the Allies in WWII). So let's make a superhero period piece. And go for broke, go for historical accuracy in costuming, set design, vernacular. Make it a legit WWII movie and let's have Cap struggle with having to be the perfect super soldier not just to win in combat but to serve as a symbol for the US to rally around.

OK, last one. There will be a third Batman in the Nolan reboot franchise, of course. Here's my thing: you're not going to get bigger than the mayhem the Joker wreaks in Dark Knight without losing some of the gritty realism of the new franchise. Buildings were collapsing and burning, Batman had sonar-vision, the city was a wreck. Going bigger means getting ridiculous. So how do you raise the stakes without going bigger? Make the threat more intimate. I present to you a revamp of the Mad Hatter. No longer is the Alice in Wonderland stuff just a cute gimmick, this Mad Hatter is a child (pre-teen?) abductor, rapist, and murderer. He is looking for his Alice. He finds candidates, takes them, and ultimately casts them aside, unsatisfied. It's sickening, it's upsetting, and it's how you raise the stakes without going bigger. But Batman's not a 12-year-old girl, you say. How is the threat more intimate? Commissioner Gordon is established as having a son and a daughter. Guess who gets kidnapped to raise the stakes for Batman, already frustrated by failing to catch the Mad Hatter yet. There we go.

So there we go, four film franchises and where I would've taken them or would like to see them go. Please post comments! Tell me what you think! Tell me your own ideas!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Tales from High School X - Mr. Montecarlo 2: Congressional Oversights

Mr. Montecarlo, whom we met last time, was not just a teacher at St. Francis High, he was also the faculty advisor to the Model Congress club at the school. Oh, and profanity spoiler alert on this one. There be some cursing. Read something else if that's a problem.

Being a super duper cool kid (irony), I was in the Model Congress club. Let me take just a moment here and address the fact that Model Congress is not considered a "cool" high school activity. St. Francis was an all-male Catholic school. Br. Willard, the principal, worked tirelessly to keep us out of contact with members of the opposite sex. Model Congress meant getting to go on a weekend trip to other cities and stay in a hotel with not only your own friends from school, but other high school students from lots of other schools, many of whom were girls. Have fun on the basketball court with the other guys, "cool" dudes.

Anyway, Mr. Montecarlo (or Monty, as he was often called) was constantly full of sage advice for his young charges. We already covered some of that advice in the previous post. A piece of advice that didn't get mentioned yet involved dicks. Yes, that's right, dicks. Like, slang for the penis. You see, Monty was very concerned that we practice, practice, practice for the Model Congress sessions (no, they were not held at Carnegie Hall). He wanted us to make sure we knew our stuff backwards and front. Why?

"So you don't wind up sitting in front of the room with your dick in your hands."

Oh. Good advice. Do not hold your dick. But later, Monty congratulated a very successful Model Congress weekend (Best Delegation award, what?) with the following summary:

"You guys walked out of that room with your dicks held high!"

Oh. OK. So holding your dick is good, as long as it's held high. Thanks for clarifying. So there you have it. Anyone reading this with a dick, or with ready access to one, do not hold it unless you hold it high.

Speaking of dicks, nearly everyone on the Model Congress trips got a little closer to a full view of Monty's Carlo each conference. The reason for this is not sketchy, just kinda gross. You see, Monty was a runner. On Model Congress weekends, he would volunteer to wake any delegates up early that wanted to go running with him bright and early, before our morning meet-ups. Monty and whoever else would go off for a run and the rest of us would wake up and stumble to the hotel room that the club officers were staying in to meet and touch base for the day. (We also had similar meetings to these at night to recount the day's events). Monty and his dedicated running fanatics would then show up fresh from their run to chat.

Monty, when running, dressed appropriately for running. His appropriate running attire consisted of a t-shirt and unbearably small short-shorts. When standing, they were short. When he would prop one leg up on the TV while talking to us all, they were beyond short. They were obscene. Perhaps it was a clever ruse to make sure we were paying attention to him and not looking at the TV, which was too close to the danger zone. This would make sense.

This would make sense because at the nighttime meetings, usually the TV would be on while we were talking, although muted. Here are some facts about hotel TVs, at least the ones at the hotels we stayed at. Hotel TVs carry HBO and other premium channels (at least they did at the turn of the 21st century). Here is a fact about HBO and other premium channels. Sometimes at night they carry soft porn. More than one meeting consisted of a clever Model Congress officer manning the remote so every time Monty wondered just what was so interesting on the TV behind him, he would look and see something innocuous like a muted Simpsons episode, not muted boobs.

All good things must come to an end, and the days of Monty getting to run the Model Congress show all by himself was no exception. A history teacher who started my sophomore year that most of us found annoying as all hell, Mr. Haystack, wanted in on the action. So he did what he needed to do to make himself the assistant faculty advisor or whatever for the club. Monty tolerated this. He gave Mr. Haystack zero responsibilities and basically just had him sit around and feel important. When we went to a Model Congress conference in a relatively nearby city, Mr. Montecarlo didn't even care that Mr. Haystack wouldn't be able to travel along with the group and would instead meet up late that night. The plan, by all accounts, was for Mr. Haystack to show up, head up to Mr. Montecarlo's room, knock, and crash there for the evening.

Around midnight, Mr. Haystack walked down the hotel hall and knocked on Monty's door. Several ear-witnesses confirm that Mr. Haystack repeatedly knocked and asked to be let in, only to be repeatedly turned away by a muffled "GO AWAY!" or "GO THE FUCK AWAY!" My good friend Graham Robot opened his door to see what the commotion was all about. Mr. Haystack saw him and said "Oh! Graham! Let me-" but was cut off by Graham closing his door without a word. Mr. Haystack had to end up paying for his own separate room. Also, his car was broken into and his radio stolen, I believe that very night. If he was less of an asshat, I would've felt really bad for him.

Mr. Montecarlo hated most people. He hated some people especially more. But there were a very select few people that he adored. One of them was a student a few years older than me, and at one time the President of the Model Congress Club: Zack Cherry. Monty LOVED Zack. Like, mancrush loved. Zack could pretty much do no wrong whatsoever in Monty's eyes. To Zack's credit, other than getting kind of an inflated ego sometimes, he was usually a pretty cool guy who took younger Model Congress delegates under his wing and taught them how to be good delegates and act cool at the same time. Zack is important to the very end of my Model Congress experience.

At the end of my senior year, Monty had an end-of-year goodbye party at his home for his Model Congress students. Zack had graduated two or so years ago at this point. My friends and I came to the party. Graham Robot was there, Dan Hellion was there, Bill Alias... a bunch of good guys. We sat in roughly a circle in Monty's screened in porch room. Each time a new person would arrive, Monty would tell them about how Zack Cherry said he might stop by for the party. Most conversation with Monty returned to this point eventually that day. Time passed, we ate, and Monty seemed more and more distant and dejected. Finally, realizing Zack Cherry would not be showing up, Monty abruptly kicked us all out of his house.

"Well, you all probably want to get going now. Bye."

So ended our Model Congress careers and our time with that delightfully bitter fellow, Mr. Montecarlo.

PS - One time he bought an air rifle from a student to kill squirrels with and when a school staff member found out she put a stuffed squirrel in his mailbox with a note that said "don't hurt me!". The next day he brought an actual dead squirrel to school in a plastic bag and returned the favor in her mailbox. Not really sure how to have fit that one into the narrative. Probably the most fucked up thing I've ever heard of a teacher doing, barring, you know, actual abuse of a student or something.

Sunday, June 06, 2010

Tales from High School X - Mr. Montecarlo: Enter the Misanthrope

My high school faculty was full of characters. You've already read about Señor Golbez, Mr. Manicotti, and Br. Raygun (at least, you've read about them if you're not a new reader of this blog... check the back entries to catch up!). Tonight I'd like to introduce you to another educator, Mr. John Montecarlo. Mr. Montecarlo was a cantankerous old bastard who was probably not THAT old, all things considered. Mr. Montecarlo seemed outright disdainful towards any and everyone, at least to some degree, although with a few exceptions. This put him in an odd relationship with students. On the one hand, he usually seemed to barely be able to tolerate his students, especially if they said or did something he found stupid or just didn't like (He at one point referred to a student in his class as Joe McCarthy (somewhat deservedly)). However, he also couldn't stand the school administration and some of their bullshit rules and regulations. And he didn't really believe in censoring himself. This meant that Mr. Montecarlo was sometimes an antagonist to me and other students, sometimes an ally, and sometimes just amusingly miserable (he once declared that highways should not post signs of any sort because they are eyesores. Not just billboards. Like, exit signs).

Mr. Montecarlo taught Civics to Freshmen, AP Politics to Seniors, and he was the faculty adviser for the Model Congress club. I knew him from the latter two of those three roles. Mr. Montecarlo, as I said, didn't really particularly care about rules he didn't personally enact. Rather than have us bring some waiver forms home to sign for Model Congress trips, he would save time by having us trade slips with the person sitting next to us and forge their parents' signatures. I actually thought that was kinda fun.

There were, of course, certain rules Mr. Montecarlo did expect us to follow. I remember the meeting we had the week before a Model Congress trip where the club officers announced that Mr. Montecarlo had a few words for us. "Gentlemen," he began, "you are representing St. Francis High next week. The things you do will reflect on the entire delegation, and the entire school. As such, I expect you to handle yourselves in a way that will not embarrass all of us. Now as you know, this trip will put you in contact with students from a lot of other schools. Many of those students will be female. You may find this causes certain thoughts and urges to crop up. I warn you now, and you'd better pay attention..."

"...No fat chicks."

What a class act. Bill Drill broke that rule and was never allowed to live it down, and got a mention by name during the same speech the following year.

Mr. Montecarlo, despite his career teaching at a Catholic prep school and lanky build, liked to appear tough, in touch with the blue collar working man. My friends and I speculated at one point that he would, every morning, drive his hands into buckets of nails and coal to toughen himself up. He would, as noted above, use colorful language in front of students. His image as a caustic dick seemed to be a point of pride to him (not hatin', just sayin'). This sets the stage for an awkward encounter between Mr. Montecarlo and my friend John Gozer, who was himself a fairly masculine and no-nonsense guy (although not a dick, caustic or otherwise).

John was stopping by Mr. Montecarlo's room after a school day had ended to clarify details about an assignment. He had gone to another classroom first, and so mostly all of the students were out of the building or in other rooms (detention, extra help, etc.) by that point. As he walked into the room, he noticed Mr. Montecarlo's radio was on. Then he noticed what song was on. Then he noticed Mr. Montecarlo facing the blackboard, oblivious to John's entry, dancing and singing along in his bass voice to Tina Turner's "What's Love Got To Do With It?" It only took a few seconds for him to realize he wasn't alone, but those few seconds of corpse-like dancing were enough for John to log a classic moment away for future discussion with peers.

Mr. Montecarlo was not a big fan of my friend Dan Hellion. Their political views did not align, and Mr. Montecarlo didn't like that Dan would regularly stand up for himself and disagree with him when he felt strongly about something. The two of them had a relationship that could be described as mutually respectful yet antagonistic... they each knew the other to possess clever intellect and strong views, but they often found themselves at odds. Senior year in AP Politics, Mr. Montecarlo would often reserve his toughest questions for Dan, trying to catch him not paying attention. One day he laid a special trap for Dan.

Every day in AP Politics we would spend the first few minutes reading copies of the Boston Globe to find articles about current events or politics to discuss. One particular morning, Mr. Montecarlo instructed Dan to pay special attention to an article a few pages in. After the few minutes of reading, class discussion began. Mr. Montecarlo asked Dan what he thought of the article he selected. "It was pretty good, raised some interesting points," said Dan. "What did you think of Edwin Meese?" inquired Mr. Montecarlo, with a satisfied look on his face. The trap was set. "Well, I'm not sure. I'd like to see the full context of his comments, but based on-" Dan didn't get to finish. Mr. Montecarlo gleefully, smugly sprung his trap. "You didn't read the article, did you, Hellion? Edwin Meese is DEAD!"

Edwin Meese was not, and as of the time of writing this post, IS not dead. He is alive and well. He was certainly alive and well 9-or-so years ago when this event took place. Dan knew this. "What!? No he's not!" Mr. Montecarlo was taken slightly aback, and was certainly unprepared for other students to chime in. "Yeah, Mr. Montecarlo, he's alive." "Yeah, he's in this article." "Mr. Montecarlo, what are you talking about?" He had to backpedal pretty quickly. "Uhhh... must be thinking of the wrong Edwin Meese. Anyway, moving along."

Next time, we'll go along with Mr. Montecarlo on the Model Congress trips and see what kinds of chicanery occurred there. But until then, may your lives be full and long, just like Edwin "Ed" Meese III!

Tuesday, June 01, 2010

These are a Few of My Favorite Things

I enjoy things. Not all things. Some things. And some things more than other things. This is, as far as I can tell, true for just about everyone. And what with all people sharing certain common physiological and neurological traits, the continuum of enjoyment of things tends to map out fairly consistently across individuals, at in broad senses. For example, most people would place "uncontrollable vomiting," "being stabbed in the face," and "smelling a bus full of dead cats" in the "not enjoy" category. I'd wager nobody who ever existed would have all three of those NOT be in the "not enjoy" category. Most people would place "eating delicious food," "belly laughing," and "having really good sex" solidly in the "enjoy" category. These are like, universal human constants.

However, there exists an immeasurable plentitude of sensations/experiences for which, to co-opt a popular phrase, your mileage may vary. These are the little things in life that, for reasons known or unknown, we enjoy (or maybe not enjoy) significantly more than other people seem to. Listed here for your reading pleasure (or not - your mileage may vary (see what I did there?)) are some of those life's special pleasures for me, in no particular order.
  • New Socks - I did a whole post about this several years ago, before the big hiatus and reboot of the blog. Basically, wearing new socks feels really good. No sock will ever feel as good as on its first wearing. On mornings where I get to put on brand new socks, I smile.
  • Driving in the HOV Lane - It rarely makes any difference at all in terms of getting where I'm going more quickly, but when I have a passenger and an opportunity to travel in an HOV Lane, 8/10 times I take that chance. Something about getting to drive in a lane that I'd sometimes not be allowed to drive in feels awesome. Like taking a secret road to the Batcave or something.
  • Using Parentheses (sometimes) - If you read this blog, you already know this about me. In fact, the more grammatically inclined amongst you (what up, dorks?) may find it irksome. Especially just now. I like doing it though. It makes me feel like I'm writing a little secret message to you, the reader. Like the rest of the body of the text is general admission, but what's in the parentheses, well, that's just between us. And FYI, I'm grammatically inclined like you wouldn't believe, and I've got test scores to prove it, son, so don't be thinking you out-grammar me just because you're a hater.
  • Coldsandal - So my car has the A/C blow in the foot area as well as out of the dashboard vents. Well, not just the A/C I guess, it's an option for ventilation of any temperature. But only the A/C applies here. Basically, when I wear my sandals and drive, I like to take my right foot out of the sandal to work the pedals. Keeping it on feels imprecise. Sometimes the left foot wanders out too, but that's just for the sake of luxury. In the summer, with the A/C on, something delightful happens. When my foot is out of the sandal, the sandal, with the A/C blowing right on it, gets cold. When I eventually put my foot back in, it is a magical feeling, my friends. Like, new socks magical. Sometimes my feet are lucky.
  • Lies that are the Literal Opposite of the Truth - I don't know why I find this hysterical, but when a person or fictional character tells a lie that is a flat, obvious contradiction from reality, I find it hilarious. Not just any lies, specifically lies that couldn't be further from the truth. They must be told with utter confidence to be funny too. Sometimes I like to do this to answer really obvious questions that I've gotten tired of hearing: "It's cold out, are you really wearing shorts?" "No."
  • Eating Chicken - Full stop.
  • Singing Along with Non-Vocal Parts of Songs - It's not just me. It's apparently a "Lebowski" trait. At least Jaja's habit of announcing the song lyrics right before they're sung didn't propagate as well.
  • Bridges - Particularly ones for walking on, although ones for driving on can be cool too. There's something I really like about walking on a wooden foot bridge though.
  • Icy Crystal Tree Phenomenon - I think that when deciduous trees with thin branches at high altitude have ice completely coat the branches so the tree looks like it's made of crystal, it is one of the most beautiful sights in the world. I've tended to run into this on higher trails while skiing or on the ski lift. This, combined with the super clear air at the top of a mountain makes it one of my favorite places in the world on a cold but clear day. By extension of the crystal tree phenomenon, I've consistently spent inordinate amounts of time in the Ice Country area of Secret of Mana for the SNES every time I've played through it. Check this video from about 8:52 in if you're not familiar. God I love that tranquil song...
There's plenty other things I enjoy probably more than most other people do. But those are some random good ones. If you feel like commenting, post a few of your own!