Diary of a Mad County

Artwork by Smell of Steve Inc./
www.smellofsteve.comWEDNESDAY, APRIL 6 Death be not proud, but death be everywhere. The Popeand TerriSchiavodied, their ordeals inspiring a thoroughly disgusting cover of TheStrangerfeaturing the pair decomposing as they race to the ultimate finish line; an image so repulsive that I have recommended it to many of my friends. Comedian Mitch Hedberg, who was brilliant, died. Cartoonist Dale Messick, who drew Brenda Starr, died. Margaret “Tuppy” Popsworthy, who read Brenda Starr, died. Brenda Starr, who lost its last reader when Tuppy Popsworthy died, died. Someone in the office asked if people weren't setting sail at a disturbingly post-Christmas-like clip, and coincidentally, an article in the NewEnglandJournalofMedicinesays if the current epidemic of child and adolescent obesity continues, life expectancy—now at 77.5 years; slightly less if you drive a Hyundai—could be shortened by two to five years. So be sure and say a big thank-you to Orange County residents Taco Bell and Carl's Jr., who've done their parts to thin the herd. Carl's produces the likes of the Six Dollar Chili Cheese Burger which packs 926 calories, 57 grams of fat and four bypasses. Meanwhile, Taco Bell has been running TV ads featuring grateful Americans who scream they are finally “Full!”—the constant intake of Cherry Coke Big Gulps, Costco beef-jerky sides, and Country Buffet mac and cheese by the metric yard having failed to turn the trick. Thank you, Half Pound Beef and Potato Burrito, you're a life saver . . . wait.

THURSDAY, APRIL 7 Mr. Schwarzenegger's tough reputation? He dead, too. The governor announces he's pussing out again, this time withdrawing his proposal to overhaul public-employee pensions and spend it on hookers—or something like that, who has time to read? The point is he's abandoning a key part of his “Year of Reform,” which is quickly becoming the “Year of Retreat.” Some write that this is the first time Schwarzenegger has caved in to special-interest pressure; in fact, it's at least the third. He was slapped down by advocates for the disabled, after he announced he wanted to cut funds to handicapped kids and spend the money on racially insensitive lawn jockeys—again, who has the time? Then he took one in the nards from dog- and cat-lovers when he announced he wanted to euthanize animals almost as soon as they arrived at control facilities, in what became known as the Texas Solution. Incredibly, people think it is incredible that someone from Hollywood would cave to popular pressure. TheOrangeCountyRegister's JimHinchwrites that this latest reversal signals that Schwarzenegger “can be rattled by criticism.” It does? I thought that was signaled when he nixed Last Action Hero II.

FRIDAY, APRIL 8 Forgot to notice stuff.

SATURDAY, APRIL 9 And the deaths keep on coming. Today, we learn of the passing of Homer Chapmanat a retirement home in Irvine. Yes, Homer Chapman is dead. And many people are more than a little suspicious about the circumstances by which he passed. Is it possible that a man who pioneered leaf and tissue analysis for diagnosing the nutrient status of citrus trees could die from something so vague, so namby pamby as “natural causes”? Probably, he was 106. Still, deeeeaaath!

SUNDAY, APRIL 10 Took my son to a Los Angeles Avengers Arena Football Leaguegame. We had barely taken our seats, far removed from the Staples Center playing field, when the referee halted action for an injury time out. We talked about things while the player was tended to; my son will be playing his first season of Pop Warner football this summer/fall and mostly we talked about that. After a while, we noticed they were still tending to the player and had brought a stretcher. “He must really be hurt,” my son said. “Yeah,” I said. We went back to talking—discussing when we were going to get a hot dog—and soon enough, the player was taken off the field to the perfunctory round of applause. After the game, we heard someone tell a friend the player had died, but it sounded like the stuff of urban legend, so I didn't pay much attention. By the time we got home, we had found out that indeed the player had died. We found out the player had a name: Al Lucas. He was 26 and had a wife and a young daughter. That night, my son, who's 11, was in bed, and I went in to say good night. “Dad,” he said. “I watched someone die.” Usually, at this point, I try to say something profound because that's what the movies and TV shows tell you to do, but I just couldn't. “Yeah,” I said. “That's awful,” he said. “Yeah, it is,” I said. He laid there, me half-laying beside him. I kissed him. “Sweet dreams,” I said.

MONDAY, APRIL 11 For years, people have asked what can make folks care about north Orange County, especially Brea?Today, we have our answer: Naked, knife-wielding antichrist.

TUESDAY, APRIL 12 This didn't happen today, but it occurred to me today. I was thinking about all the loss, all the fuss made over the loss and all the fuss that isn't made anymore over the losses in Iraq, and I thought about something in TheWildParrotsofTelegraphHill, a wonderful and simple documentary about a man who cared for wild parrots that lived in San Francisco. The man, Mark Bittner, isn't one of these cat-people types who believe parrots are people. He knows they're animals, knows they can get along without him and knows they will probably die a violent death. This he accepts, but he also accepts that animals are worthy of our time and respect, and he gets to know the birds as individuals with their own personalities and quirks, which makes them far different than the parrots I encounter around my house, who tend to attack German tourists. I took my wife and daughter to see the film, and toward the end, Bittner mentions having gone to listen to a Zen master who compared existence to a waterfall. As the master explains it, we are all one as the river heading toward the fall, and when the river goes over the edge, we are separated into droplets for a very short time, a time in which we believe ourselves to be individuals, but soon enough, sometimes violently, we are returned to the natural order, one river. It was really a beautiful way of putting things, and I turned to my 14-year-old daughter, who shares my interest in eastern spirituality, and nodded my head knowingly. Catching my gaze, she leaned into me and asked, “Did you hear me fart?”


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