Urahara

It's Not Love Unless You Want To Cough Up Blood

"It's not love unless you want to cough up blood." This is something I told myself during my college days as an angry, pale virgin. While two of the three preceding descriptors no longer apply to me, I still very much want to cough up blood. I believe I first uttered those words to myself in the middle of one of a series of unrequited loves. I thought them noble and pure at the time, when I can see now I was not some chivalrous knight -- instead just stupid. Point being, I believe I said the above to myself when, I think, I was cleaning a girl's vomit out of a toilet and was overcome with emotion and/or nausea.

Sparing additional, less-heart-warming details of this episode, the meaning of this little mantra to myself, beyond protecting my psyche, was that I felt, and still feel, that a deep love is something that will move you, something that will consume you, and something that will ruin you in all the best ways. There are crushes, there are flings, and there are infatuations, but there's a feeling more visceral and more ethereal than all these -- something which once glimpsed can never, ever be forgotten, an amalgam of appreciation and adoration that alters who you are and the world around you.

I've known my girlfriend for six years. We live together in New York City. She's my best friend. This is the story of how we got engaged.

It was November 21, 2010. In Central Park. I had six years to think through how this day would go. For many of those years, I wanted to propose on Governors Island. A tiny green jewel just off the Southern tip of Manhattan, it's a gorgeous place. My original vision was to spend a Sunday in the summer there, the two of us having a picnic, and then me popping the question for dessert. Unfortunately, Governors Island is closed in the winter. Also, the first time the girl went to the island, she didn't care for its mix of green spaces and rusted, crumbling Civil War forts. I think it's romantic.

The next plan, and the plan I almost went forward with was proposing over brunch at a dessert bar we both enjoy, Kyotofu on 9th and 48th. We'd never been to the place for brunch before, and I spent the past month casually mentioning to the girlfriend that we really should try it sometime. She, knowing that I just have a thing for brunch, didn't think anything of it. The plan was to start the day at the Bryant Park Skating Rink, then head to Kyotofu for brunch, then up and across Central Park, and then an early dinner at Alice's Tea Cup. I'd propose at brunch, and then we'd continue on through the day, fingers intertwined, to a few other of her favorite spots. Ultimately, I had two concerns with this agenda. First, it's a lot of stuff. It's a full day of activities, and I wasn't sure we'd actually be able to hit each point. Second, I hope Kyotofu stays in business forever and ever, but I didn't want to propose in a place that might disappear. I want to be able to come back to the spot in five years, ten years, and twenty-five years, and if Kyotofu shuts its doors, who knows if we'll ever be able to return to the space.

So, I modified the plan slightly. We start the day in Bryant Park, share hot cider, and then the girl goes skating while I stay on the sidelines to do "work". After she does a few laps on the rink, I'd wave her over to the edge and propose right there. It's sweet. It's different. It's something you'd see in a movie. What you wouldn't see in a movie is the girl tripping, falling on her back, causing a crowd of other skaters to back up, and the rink's security yelling at the both of us. As such, I shelved this idea.

The ultimate plan pulled a bit from each of the above. We'd start our day in Central Park. We'd set off for the Central Park Zoo and spend an hour or so there. After the zoo, we'd wander about the park and, at an appropriately scenic and romantic spot, I'd propose. We'd then walk down to Kyotofu for brunch. Finally, we'd swing by Bryant Park and share a hot cider. The important wrinkle in all this is she had previously commented to me about her specifically not wanting me to propose to her in a zoo, so my plan was to make her think I was doing just that. I had a brooch for her, and while we were beside the sea lion tank, I said a few words and presented her with the brooch.

"What's this? What's this?" She asked, dumbstruck. There was panic, surprise, excitement, and dread in her face. She didn't really think I was proposing, as she knew the zoo is exactly the kind of place I'd want to propose, and she knew I wouldn't do something so obvious. What she didn't take into account is that I'd use this as misdirection before actually proposing a few hours later. I just gave her a present. There's no way I'd, then, go ahead and give her a ring. But I did.

After the zoo, we set out wandering through Central Park. The plan was to simply walk West, and someplace along the path, serendipity would strike. She had her camera with her, and the set up is that I'd wait for the foliage to catch her eye. Once she put her attention on that, I'd be waiting there behind her with the ring. Only a few minutes after leaving the zoo, we sat down by a duck pond, and there was an outcrop perfect for photographs. I mentioned a few times how she could take some great pictures of the pond and its inhabitants, but she told me back, "I don't like ducks."

Okay. No worries. We then continued our walk. We zigzagged a bit at first, bouncing around a few hills and valleys, me constantly looking for spots that would make a great picture. She didn't lift her camera. We then zigzagged a lot, and ultimately came to the West end of the park. I didn't want to change the plan. I didn't want to propose over brunch. I didn't want to draft a new plan. At the end of the park, I bought us a drink and recommended we take another loop. I said something about wanting to see something we had passed or that there was a better exit for us closer to Kyotofu. Lies.

Just a few steps into the park, we saw a hawk perched atop a tree. This was the first time the girlfriend lifted her camera all day. She snapped a couple pictures of the hawk and I, behind her, readied the ring. At the same time, though, a pack of bikers shot by us followed by a pedicab looking for business. She was distracted, but this space was neither scenic nor romantic. So, we kept on going, and I soon pointed out how the light fell on the trees around one of Central Park's footbridges. The Pine Bank Bridge. It sure was scenic and romantic. She focused her camera lens on it. I wanted to cough up blood.

When she turned around, I was there, a ring in my hand.

"Will you marry me?"

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"Are you serious?"

"Yes."

"Will you marry me?"

"Yes."

Immediately, tears were in her eyes, and her head was on my chest. As an added perk of the location, we were adjacent to a row of benches. We sat as she hyperventilated, and I said some true things. I wiped her eyes. I placed the ring on her finger. We kissed.

We took, then, a few photos of the spot and ourselves there and on said bridge. It's a place we can go back to in five years, ten years, and twenty-five years. Leaving the park, she was excited and may or may not have spilled a drink on me. We called friends and family to spread the news on our way to brunch. I had soft-boiled eggs and brioche. She had sake-infused macaroni and cheese.

It was dark outside when we left the restaurant, and, hands held, we walked on down to 42nd Street and over to Bryant Park. There, we got our hot cider and went home.

giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

Battleship Names of Yesteryear

I had to pee. It was a brisk autumn day in NYC around 5 PM. The sky was already black, and if not for the neon of Times Square, I'd have been in similar darkness. But, the city's lights did keep aglow, extending daylight through the result of year upon year of capitalism and ingenuity. The end result of this? I had to pee. The girlfriend and I had spent the day crisscrossing streets, avenues, cafes, and patches of green, adding up to, among other things, two cups of hot cinder, one bottle of water, and four cups of tea inside of me. I pride myself in the amount of liquid my bladder can carry, but its warm contents coupled with the chill permeating the air was more than I could take. I had to pee.

While I could have rushed into the closest Starbucks, fast food joint, or other eatery and ordered something stupid as an excuse to get into their restroom, I've found it never a certainty that serendipity will bless me with a restroom in these cases and -- if there is physically a toilet in the place -- one that's working and/or not behind some godawful line. It's been my experience the latter will always be the case at Starbucks. Always.

As such, I decided to go to a destination bathroom. Rather than run into the closest one I could find, I moseyed a few blocks to Kinokuniya Bookstore, just across from Bryant Park. Kinokuniya is the largest Japanese bookstore in the USA. Its owners are good people. I spend far too much money there on curios and books on byzantine topics. And they have, perhaps, the best bathroom in the city. Big, easily accessible on the first floor, and with nary a line, it's The Promised Land for potty seekers. (And interestingly, it's humble compared to the bookstore's original bathroom. A half dozen years ago, before Kinokuniya moved to its present location, the store was located in Rockefeller Center, and its restroom there had an original, commissioned mural across its walls.) So, I went to Kinokuniya this brisk autumn day and made water.

Kinokuniya is clever, though. While most merchants place impulse items by their cash registers, Kinokuniya's also got a stash by its restrooms. Right outside them are the store's discount racks, stacks of books at rock bottom prices the eye cannot help but notice as other parts of the body lead it to the toilet. And, this brisk autumn day -- although, technically, it was evening -- I spotted one such book while on my way to wee. The First Destroyers by David Lyon.

I like boats. Growing up, I wanted to be a moviemaker, but before I wanted to be a moviemaker, I wanted to be a genetic engineer, and before I wanted to be a genetic engineer, I wanted to join the Navy. While I no longer foresee a tour of duty on a battleship as a viable career path for me, I still love ships of all shapes and sizes. The girlfriend and I spent our fifth anniversary on the deck of a reconstruction of an 1854 cargo schooner, and whenever Fleet Week gets into town, anyone who's with me can attest that I touch everything. (But, what anyone who's with me fails to notice is that I lick everything, too, when their backs are turned.)

So, I bought The First Destroyers by David Lyon for $8. Published in 1996, it's an obsessive account of the first Torpedo Boat Destroyers commissioned by the British Navy circa 1890. I've learned a lot from it, too, and while I could bore you with facts and figures about armaments and tonnage, I'm instead going to speak a bit about names. See, going through this book, I've learned the British Navy had no clue what the fuck it was doing naming its first Torpedo Boat Destroyers. Don't follow me? No worries. Plain and simple, what follows is a listing of some of the more striking names the Brits gave these ships...

Albacore
Angler
Arab
Brazen
Bullfinch
Cheerful
Coquette
Crane
Daring
Decoy
Desperate
Earnest
Fawn
Foam
Greyhound
Handy
Haughty
Mallard
Otter
Quail
Recruit
Salmon
Spiteful
Squirrel
Starfish
Sturgeon
Success
Surly
Zebra

I could easily comment on all of the above names, but I really think they speak for themselves. I must admit that the HMS Spiteful, while a bit too on the nose, isn't that bad of a name, really. The other names on this list, though, seem like jokes. Most of 'em would fail to strike fear into the heart of a kitten, and -- actually -- I'm surprised Kitten wasn't on the list. And Arab? How was this one approved? I suppose the US military has things named Apache, Comanche, and Tomahawk and this is kinda the same thing, as England was shitting all over the Middle East back then. Still, I'd have questioned it if I was in that naming committee.

But, at some point after the Arab, someone finally did raise their hand -- and hopefully someone did get fired -- as looking down the long list of Torpedo Boat Destroyer names, we can see that there was a breaking point. The HMS Squirrel. For, this ship's entry has an annotation. While she was originally laid out and constructed as the Squirrel, before she was commissioned, the British Admiralty came to their senses, said enough is enough, and renamed her the Wolf. That's a better name. But it's not as good as Werewolf.

See, if I was in charge of naming battleships, I'd probably name the very first one the Werewolf, with her sister ships called the Dracula, the Mummy, the Bigfoot, the Frankenstein, the Mothra, and the Chupacabra. But as I no longer see the Navy as a stop on my career path, I will never be in charge of naming battleships. Which is a shame. I imagine there's always hope, though, that I could come into possession of a time machine and transport myself back in time to England in 1890 so that I could raise objection to their stupid plans for their stupid, stupid names.

Actually, who the hell am I kidding, if I traveled back in time to England in 1890, I'd be the person who proposed all these names just to fuck with myself in the future.

giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

Peter Drinks Joose

Last night, the girlfriend and I went out for a nice dinner at Basmati Table, a neighborhood Indian place in Woodside the Department of Health gives a B. I had some fantastic Chana Dal that I'd give an A. Afterwards, heading to a foofoo, upscale grocery store next door, we sought out libation for the rest of the evening. We scored a bottle of Southern Tier Creme Brulee Stout, something I'd become aware of a month ago through a tangent in a discussion, much like this tangent here, but couldn't locate until now because I tend not to frequent many yuppie markets. (The place had mango cheese. When did they start putting mangos in cheese?) Anyway, rather than being content with a big bottle of dessert beer, I had to stop at a Joose display before making my way to the register. The store had Joose, one of the half dozen or so beverages containing alcohol and caffeine and packaged like energy drinks that are soon to be illegal in New York State, for sale for $3.50 a can. That's $3.50 for a 23.5 oz can of 12% alcohol fruit-flavored malt liquor. Figuring that a can of the soon-to-be-extinct Joose would be an ironic entry onto my bookshelf, I threw one on the check-out counter, too.

What follows, with no particular overarching theme nor order, are my experiences with my first and last can of Joose.

Joose doesn't list its ingredients. I was under the impression that the FDA required all foodstuffs to clearly list their contents and nutritional facts. Spinning the can of Joose around, I searched and searched and searched, but the best I could find was a starburst with this description... "Natural Flavors, Taurine, Ginseng, Caffeine, and Certified Color!" I've got to assume this list is a bit abridged. And vague. Certified color?

Joose has a skull on its can. Maybe it's just me, but I was raised with the belief that a skull on a container indicated "poison". Joose, though, has a nice, big skull on it.

Joose tastes like a sour wine cooler. We had the watermelon variety, but didn't detect a hint of watermelon in the thing. Instead, downing roughly a half pint of it in one gulp, I got only an unpleasant, fizzy, sour pop with the slight aftertaste of a strawberry daiquiri. Wait, that sounds only moderately unappetizing. The stuff was wretched. Joose tastes like a rancid wine cooler.

I had only one gulp of Joose and spilled the rest down the drain. As much as I wanted to drink the full can, get heart palpitations, and have an excuse for getting handsy with the girlfriend, I couldn't do it. I didn't get buzzed. I didn't get plastered. I didn't get hammered. I did, though, get a terrible stabbing in my stomach. See, five minutes after my singular taste of Joose, if felt like I had razor blades inside me. While Joose was unpleasant going down, it was downright painful once it was in my belly, and it wasn't until the next morning that I couldn't feel the Joose eating away at me anymore. I presume it's because I had fully digested the stuff, but I take it the malt liquor could have also successfully burned its way through my stomach and is now doing irreversible damage to my gall bladder, lungs, or pancreas.

Joose cost me more than it should have. I've since learned that the MSRP for Joose is $2.50 a can. The yuppie market I ventured into, though, had it on sale for $3.50. They also had $10 bottles of apple juice. Yeah, $10 for apple juice, which I presume involves water from a hidden spring deep in the Himalayas carried back one drop at a time by golden-haired virgins riding unicorns to justify the price tag. Why apple juice would need spring water, I don't know.

Joose cost me more than it should have, really. While I didn't do anything stupid after drinking Joose, I did do something pretty moronic in my moronic anticipation of drinking the stuff. Downloading a few demos on Xbox LIVE before cracking open my Joose, I was too preoccupied with the skull on the malt liquour's can to press the right buttons and, as a result, inadvertently bought a game called Tempura of The Dead. I've got no clue what the hell it's about, and while I do like tempura, I have serious reservations it's worth the $2.40 I spent.

Bitch Slap is an awesome movie. After opening up the Joose, the girlfriend and I spent the evening in each other's arms watching a little something on Netflix called Bitch Slap. The zero budget affair, I assume, is a cash in on Zack Snyder's forthcoming Sucker Punch. It's the story of three dames digging for $200 million in diamonds in the desert with a plethora of flashbacks to strip clubs, secret agents, and nunneries. The movie stars Julia Voth, Erin Cummings, and America Olivo, three women I had never heard of before but are all admirable actors. The definition of actor, of course, according to Bitch Slap is looking damn fine in pleather pants and gold miniskirts plus simultaneously shooting prop guns without saying "pew pew" while the camera's on your face, but, really, the camera's not going to me on your face all that much because of said pleather pants and gold miniskirts. Bitch Slap also features Kevin Sorbo, Lucy Lawless, and Renee O'Conner. The movie is a hearty mix of Kill Bill, blue screens, and exploitation and should be a train wreck, but it was good. Not only was it better than it had any right to be, it was a genuinely fun flick with some committed folks behind the cinematography and editing to elevate it above just T&A. The writing, too, was taut. Well, not "taut", but it was layered. Sure, two girls did make out in a trailer. Sure, rather than conserving their finite water supply in the middle of the desert, the main characters did opt to douse it over their chests while writhing in slow motion. Sure, the secret agent's codename was "Foxy 69". But, the narrative driving the story forward was legit. It kinda fell apart in the third act when, despite all the lead up, the story resolved by slamming things against one another until the antagonist was dead. The denouement made up for it, though, and -- looking back -- there was some sly foreshadowing hinting at the movie's final revelation. I gave it five stars.

I think that's it.

I had planned, from the get go, to put the empty can of Joose on a shelf as a conversation piece, but I found out this morning that my girlfriend tossed it because "it stank". I'm kinda angry at her, but probably shouldn't throw the relationship away over a $3.50 can of malt liquor. $5.90 if you count Tempura of The Dead. But, who's counting.

giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

A Musing About My Eventual Fatherhood

I'm going to be a bad father. Let's just get that out of the way up front. My child's going to be raised on a steady stream of Babylon 5 and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, spend every Saturday at the Bronx Zoo, and have a wardrobe consisting entirely of T-Shirts with cartoon dinosaurs saying "T-Rex says Rowr" and itty bitty corduroy jackets. My kid's primary mission during his or her formative years will be to beat Eddie Stemkowski's kid in Street Fighter VI. If my son wants to play football or daughter wants to be a cheerleader, I'm not going to know how to take it.

All this said, there are some arenas where I will prove responsible/anal. The kid ain't eating junk food and very little red meat, apart from the aforementioned shows, my child will be listening to NPR rather than watching TV (I'll make an exception for Muppet Babies), and he or she will spend an hour a day doing exercises in creative writing. My kid's secondary mission will be to have a novel published by age 12.

Where I'm going here is that I'm not going to be the best parent, but I learned today, too, that neither will I be the worst. On the 7 Train, just after leaving Courthouse Square, a mother and son sat down next to me. The kid was four or five. We was gabbing, talking traditional kid babble, while his mother nodded, staring off into space, wondering where her life went wrong. A typical sight on the subway. Today, though, the boy was babbling not about bikes, or frogs, or doodoo, or other kid things, but about Mortal Kombat. He was talking to his mom about his favorite Mortal Kombat character, moves, and then did a little beatbox-styled Mortal Kombat theme.

No.

Call me a prude. Call me backwards. Call me a hypocrite (see the Street Fighter mention above), but I'm not putting Mortal Kombat into the hands of my progeny until they've turned double digits. I've got nothing against Mortal Kombat and have fond memories of sleepless nights playing it with friends during the latter half of my grade school education, I doodled my favorite character -- Scorpion -- on notebook pages long into college, and I stuck with both the animated and live-action Mortal Kombat shows until both thankfully met their cancellations. But, you just don't give your five-year-old something that allows them to rip out spines, lob off heads, and cause bodies to explode into fountains of bone.

Ditto goes for the latest iteration of Modern Warfare and whatever else daddy's playing when little baby Davros or Claudia wants to play games, too. God knows I was exposed to some things I shouldn't have been growing up that have stayed with me, and I sought out these things solo, never, ever chatting with them with mom and dad. So, for this mom to nod her head as her son rambled about Johnny Cage's finishing moves, I could only scratch my head.

No matter what crap I've got to dig through at the office or how behind I am on bills, my son or daughter is my son or daughter, and I'm not going to let them get screwed up other than the ways I ruin them myself. I'm going to be an active parent, an eager parent, and an over-achieving parent. I can't wait for PTA meetings. I'm going to be in the front row at school plays. And, if my kid wants to try out T-Ball, I'll cheer from the sidelines, too, as long as it doesn't lead to any harder sports.

And, as I assume I've become a successful novelist (and hopefully a vampire) by the time of my first son or daughter's birth, I can only imagine this and all my other miscellaneous writings have been preserved in a hardcover compendium. As such, one day, Junior will find these very words and see daddy had a plan all along. It probably wasn't a good plan, but it goes to prove I didn't just make it up along the way.

Now, to the future Davros or Claudia Tatara, you know you're still too young to play most of daddy's games. If, though, you're tired of punching away at the typewriter or training to kick Eddie's kid's ass, I'm sure daddy would be happy to let you play Xenogears a little early.

More at giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

The Man With The Zombie Tattoo

I'm on the train right now, heading from Grand Central to Queens. You see all sorts of people on the train, especially during rush hour and when it's stupid late at night. It's the former right now, and I'm glad about that, as I wouldn't want to run into the guy I'm looking at now at night. The dude's across from me, standing near the door. He's in ripped jeans and a black leather jacket. His hair, also black, is pulled back into a long pony tail. Back to the jeans and jacket, he's filled in both with an amount of muscle that's the work of decided concentration. He's built, so what? Well, we're not there yet, as he's got the sleeves of his jacket pulled up, his forearms bare.

His left forearm's got a tattoo. Rather, his left forearm is a tattoo. A portrait takes up the whole of his exposed skin. A portrait of what? A zombie. A flesh-eating, skin-crawling, puss-spewing, brain-open-to-the-air zombie. Big, green, and ugly, this dude decided to invest a fair amount of his personal, indelible canvas to a picture of a zombie. Hell, investing any of your skin for an image of the undead is a ballsy choice, and I really want to know what's up with it.

Is he a Romero fan? Does he totally dig Milla Jovovich? Maybe it's a political statement? Maybe it's a tribute to a fallen friend? Maybe he lost a bet? I just can't comprehend what would make someone -- anyone -- turn their arm into the detailed likeness of a putrid, green monster.

I'm not one into body art or modification at all. I get why people do it -- most of the time -- and I respect it, but I'm just too afraid of needles and blood to seriously consider it for myself. If I had to think about the kind of tattoo I'd want, it would be stupidly geeky, a representation of DNA, something in binary, or a barcode. I wouldn't want art, but rather text or something to be deciphered. But, this is neither here nor there. Regardless of what I'd want, I'd want it someplace benign. Even if I had an adorable puppy scrawled into my skin, I wouldn't want it on my forearm, as I imagine this would have some serious career-limiting ramifications.

And if an office is none-too-thrilled with my big-eyed puppy tattoo, I've got to assume a zombie dripping blood and bile would end the first interview.

Maybe, he's a self-made internet millionaire, he doesn't need to interact with other folks face-to-face, and he's free to adorn his flesh however he damn well pleases. Perhaps he's got a zombie on his skin as he's actually a shy guy, and the zombie is like a personal "Beware of Dog" sign that accompanies him wherever he goes. No one dares mess with a man with a zombie on his arm. Perhaps it was for a girl. Guys do stupid stuff for women. Perhaps... I don't know.

I just want to know this dude's deal.

And, looking at that tattoo from a different angle, if he's showing the world a ravenous, undead beastie, what tattoos is he hiding? Woman tied to train tracks? The KKK demolishing the Lincoln Memorial? Hitler lighting an orphanage on fire with Pol Pot and Genghis Khan? Dickwolves? I don't get it, and I'm not going to summon any answers here as I'm not about to ask the dude how he came to have a zombie foaming, fuming out of his arm.

You know what, though, the tattoo could actually be Toxie. Maybe the guy's just the world's biggest Toxic Avenger fan. Of course, if true, that begs a whole series of other questions.

More at giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

Would You Share Your Home With A Ghost?

First Posted on GiantRobotsFightingGod.com

The October 25th edition of USA Today included a charming little infographic in the corner of its first page. "Would you share your home with a ghost if you lived rent free?" was the question it posed, and the answer, culled from 1,000 adults surveyed by rent.com, was startling to say the least. Displayed as a ghost-pie chart hybrid, 51% said yes, 49% said no.

Don't get me wrong, I'd love to live rent free, but I think the infographic dumbs down the equation a bit much. Live with a ghost? Give me more information here. I've got a friend who's a genuine, bonafide Ghost Hunter. He volunteers with The Atlantic Paranormal Society and spends nights in other peoples' homes looking for spooky shit. (There's gotta be a way to connect homeowners currently plagued with ghosts with the 51% of America that wouldn't mind. Trade keys and leases or something. Could be a viable little business. Maybe I could even retire off of that money. Wait, the 51% are freeloaders. This wouldn't work out.) Anyway, this friend goes out of his way trying to find the paranormal, but while he's damn curious about what's beyond the veil of death, he's none too thrilled with the idea of bringing something back to his own home. So, if my friendly neighborhood Ghost Hunter doesn't want ghosts in his own damn house, I'm going to be skeptical, too.

Just look at how difficult it is trying to find a good roommate. Now amplify this with protoplasm. Not only are you looking at sizing up your roommate's personality, cleanliness, and whether or not they'd walk off with your TV, you've now got to worry about hellmouths opening up in the linen cabinet. Would I live with a ghost for zero rent? I need more information than that. You've got any number of sizes and shapes of specters, and I can't intelligently say "yay" or "nay" until I have more facts. And, frankly, thinking about it, I'm seeing more negatives than positives here.

Let's say you're part of the half of America who's pro-ghost and anti-rent. Let's pretend your new etheral roommate's on his way. You hear a knock at the door and open it up. What do you see? Below's the life in store for you with a half dozen famous phantasms. Note: None of em are good.

Casper The Friendly Ghost. Casper's chipper, cheerful, and hangs around with a pretty tame afterlife crew. He's a dead eight-year-old, what's the worst that could happen here? He's still an eight-year-old, and I don't want an eight-year-old kid splitting my apartment. Half the things I watch aren't appropriate for kids, and flat out none of the videogames I play are. I'd spend most nights playing Chutes and Ladders with the bore and end up drinking myself to death, haunting my place, too.

Slimer. Just as Casper means living with an eight-year-old, Slimer's nothing but a fratboy. Actually, he's a fratboy who can walk through walls. Put a lock on the fridge so he won't eat everything inside it? He'll float right in. Hung a sock on your doorknob as a sign you're trying poorly to woo a lady? He'll float right in. Taking a shit? He'll float right in. And, given his name is "Slimer", odds are he'll quickly turn the house a preternatural green, pretty much preventing any lady-wooing at all. Only plus side here is if he pisses Ecto Cooler.

Gentleman Ghost. Gentleman Ghost is a bad guy from the Hawkman comic book mythos. He's the ever-living spirit of a highwayman who now, for some reason, fights an alien cop with bird wings. Gentleman Ghost wears a top hat, monocle, cane, and coat with tails, so he's better dressed than you or me and would probably be a dick about keeping the house clean. Slimer would have trashed the place, but Gentleman Ghost would nag you to death when you aren't using a coaster. Further, he's dressed in all white, so I presume he's a racist.

Rukia Kikuchi. Rukia's a little goth grim reaper girl from Bleach. She's good with a sword, knows kung fu, and comes from a rich family. More importantly, she's several hundred years old, but looks to be just on the legal side of barely-legal. While living with Rukia may at first sound appealing, think this one through. Your undead girlfriend is a hot little number, but you know what's under the black bra and panties? A girl in too much eyeliner who wants to stay up all night reciting her crappy poetry about how mommy and daddy don't love her.

Ghost Rider. Wikipedia tells me Ghost Rider may be the strongest super hero on the planet. That's pretty cool. And with him being a former stunt man, I'm sure he's a chill, casual guy, enjoys a good beer, and has got stories up the wazoo. On paper, things check out. Ghost Rider would actually be a pretty good roommate until -- of course -- his head burns your house down.

Obi-Wan Kenobi. What? He's a ghost. Now, I'd be totally cool with a translucent Alec Guinness sharing my apartment, but I presume that's not who I'd get.

Dr. Malcolm Crowe. Remember Bruce Willis in The Sixth Sense? Remember how we all loved the movie's surprise ending? You'll sadly not love the other surprises Crowe brings into your life. Think you've got orange juice? Surprise! Crowe finished it but left the empty bottle in the fridge. Think your Netflix envelope's in the mailbox? Surprise! Crowe dropped it behind the couch. Think your rent check was mailed, too? Wait, you're living rent free, so forget this one. Nonetheless, little surprises suck.

The Headless Horseman. Straight from Sleepy Hollow, the Headless Horseman's got all kinds of baggage. He's gonna chop off the heads of all your neighbors and delivery guys, his horse will shit on everything, and -- without a head -- he's going to bump into everything, too, knocking over all your stuff. This last one's a deal breaker.

Creepy Fucking Dead Japanese Kids from The Grudge. No.

In summation, America, before raising your hand to live with a ghost for free rent, think it through. As I hope I've illustrated, you gotta do your research. Opening your home to a poltergeist could have some serious ramifications on your interior design, ability to seal the deal with womenfolk, and the fate of your immortal soul. Even more than all that, though, remember that dead people are still people. Living with a roommate sucks.
Urahara

Let's Name Baby Lions!

Late last year, a baby stork was born in the Bronx Zoo. Late last year, the Bronx Zoo held a contest to name said stork, too. I submitted the name "MacGyver" accompanied by a bulleted list of the reasons there was no better name for a bird in the world. The zoo named the thing "Kazira". One could think I'd grow bitter after this experience, but here we are now on the verge of summer, and I'm on my way to the Bronx Zoo again. And not just to enjoy the wholesome family fun, educational animal enrichment sessions, and fantastic zoo pizza. No, I'm on my way to the zoo because, just weeks ago, three lion cubs were born.

Like with the zoo's stork, visitors could submit their recommendations for names, and -- in a new twist -- attendees could this time vote for the winner. For the record, I am bitter about the stork debacle last year, and that's why, this year, I had a cunning plan. I submitted my recommended names for the newborn lions. Twice. That's right. But I didn't submit the same names twice. Oh no, you see, I submitted two different sets of names, doubling my odds of getting selected. Cunning, I know.

So, what were my names?

Adama, Starbuck, and Boomer. RC, Jolt, and Mr. Green. Perhaps I need to explain. The lion cubs consist of one little boy and two girls, and I pondered what trio of names would be appropriate, stirring, and evocative, given wings from the popular zeitgeist. I trust if you conduct this exercise you'll similarly come to the inevitable conclusion that Battlestar Galatica's Adama, Starbuck, and Boomer are universally the best names for baby lions. "Adama" means stalwart, brave, and committed to seeing things through to the end. "Starbuck" is an expression of the mysteries of the universe -- the unknowns, the miracles, and the divine -- and the common yearnings of all faiths. "Boomer" is because Grace Park is a hottie. As for the more arcane second set of names, I should note here that these cubs have an older sibling, a sister already dubbed "Moxie". To continue this tradition, I devised naming the three new lions after similarly enigmatic soft drinks, beverages that, like Moxie, are storied, obscure, or extinct. RC, Jolt, and Mr. Green.

God, how I loved Mr. Green, and how I wept when it disappeared from shelves close to ten years ago.

So, I submitted each trio of names to the Bronx Zoo, certain that two entries would undoubtedly land me in a good place. They did not. For, the Bronx Zoo's finalist list was composed of... Sahara, Savannah and Upepo. Nkiru, Penda, and Kamili. Imani, Bahari, and Dakarai. Asali, Mbali, and Bakari. And Nala, Shani, and Adamma.

Seriously? I get that lions come from Africa, but they were born here in New York City. Would it have killed the zoo to have included some more diverse names as finalists? Instead, putting on my Big Dumb White Guy hat, voters had five sets of nearly identical names to select from. Where's the excitement in that? Where's the drama? And what about poor Moxie?

The contest just wrapped, the winners have been announced, and I'm on my way to the Bronx Zoo today to see the newly christened Nala ( "gift" in Swahili), Shani ("wonderful" in Swahili), and Adamma ("beautiful child" in Igbo).

But, here's the thing, you gotta know why this trio won, right? "Adamma". It's clear these names made it into the finals as someone saw my entry, couldn't get it passed, but knew "Adama" was spot on for a lion cub. As such, they got this similar entry approved instead, and the commonality wasn't lost on voters, who consciously (or perhaps unconsciously) picked Nala, Shani, and Adamma because they respected the old man for getting his boat and all the souls aboard to Earth.

Looking to the future, I'm hoping this is a watershed moment leading to sillier, kitschier, geekier names for newborn animals in all of New York City's zoos and aquariums. There's still a long way to go, but it's a noble fight, and I hope you'll join me in it.

I won't rest until Davros the Penguin waddles across the rocks in the Central Park Zoo's arctic bird house.

giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

The Doctor Who Lolita Slumber Party

Doctor Who is a British television program (or programme) about a man with two hearts who travels through time and space inside a blue box with an assortment of lady friends and -- on occasion -- a robot dog. It's the longest running TV show in history and beloved the world over. Really.

Lolita fashion is an umbrella term for a family of Japanese clothing styles that range from childlike to obtusely erotic that all draw their inspiration from a lacy, frilly period of French history that never really happened. It's been around Japan for a decade or so and has recently become the center of a growing subculture the world over. Really.

Now close your eyes and picture two circles inside your head. If you're still reading this, you didn't close your eyes, now did you? That's okay. If you closed your eyes, you'd miss out on all the thousand or so words that follow. Then again, I've got no clue if there'll anything of merit, or if it'll just be poorly-placed digressions, so maybe it is smarter for you to just shut your eyes and catch up on some sleep. Nope? Staying with me? Okay, let's actually get on topic. Picture two circles inside your head. Let's label the left "Doctor Who Fans" and the right "Lolita Aficionados". If you'd prefer to make "Lolita Aficionados" the circle on the left, that's okay, too. We'll still get the same outcome. What is this outcome? Bring the two circles together. Not all the way, but just a bit, so we've got some "Doctor Who Fans" circle on one side, some "Lolita Aficionados" circle on the other, and right in the middle, an area of overlap. This overlapping area should be labeled something like "Girls Who Like Doctor Who And Lolita Fashion", and it exists. And there are at least six in New York City alone.

Wipe the above Venn diagram out of your head. Instead, throw up a map of New York City. Find Central Park. Got it? Go to the bottom. You're around 59th Street. Draw a line East. Hit the river? Keep on going. You're now in Queens, hitting Long Island City, Sunnyside, and then -- a few dozen of blocks in -- Woodside. Queens's Sunnyside and Woodside areas are wonderful, eclectic, quaint, vibrant neighborhoods. They've got the best of the big city, just enough distance to have some peace and quiet, an atlas full of astonishing restaurants, and an unassuming attitude made up of the collective consciousness of their blue collar residents and writer, musician, and artisan brethren. And -- last weekend -- they got one more accolade. They were the epicenter of NYC's "Girls Who Like Doctor Who And Lolita Fashion".

There was a Doctor Who Lolita Slumber Party going on last Saturday. A gathering of a half dozen girls who like ruffles and dudes with two hearts, it ran from 2 PM and straight on till morning. They started off with 2005's "Rose" -- the first episode of the modern Doctor Who era -- and went through highlights including "The Christmas Invasion", "The Impossible Planet," "The Satan Pit," "The Shakespeare Code," "Gridlock," "Human Nature," "The Family of Blood," "Blink," "Utopia," "The Sound of Drums," "Last of the Time Lords," "Partners In Crime," "The Fires of Pompeii," "Silence in The Library," and "Forest of The Dead." These episodes could collectively be called some of Doctor Who's best. And I say this meaning that they're my favorites.

And why are NYC's Doctor Who-loving Lolitas watching my favorite episodes? Maybe because I programmed the thing with my girlfriend. In the interest of full disclosure, I know so much about Sunnyside and Woodside because I live there, and my girlfriend was hosting the shindig. Although, while she and I saw eye-to-eye on the episode selection, she disagreed with the rest of my slumber party concepts.

Apparently, girls at slumber parties don't have tickle fights, set up webcams, play spin the bottle, or do anything with bananas. Movies and television tell me it isn't a slumber party unless at least three of these four factors are involved, but my girlfriend was pretty adamant none of 'em actually occur. In their place, she planned a loose schedule of snacking, dinner, sleep, and then a big wrap-up brunch. The snack menu included cheese balls and both potato and tortilla chips, dinner was via pizza delivery from quintessential NYC pizzeria Lentini's, dreams were ushered in on an unfurled futon, air mattress, and sleeping bags, and finally brunch was at the award-winning Quaint on Skillman Avenue.

I agreed with my girlfriend's choice of Quaint for the brunch. It's been ranked as one of Queens's best restaurants, and its brunch selection in inspired, from its delicate goat cheese and fresh herb omelet all the way to its show-stopping caramelized banana challah French toast. Other than this, however, I think the girlfriend was going at it all wrong. Lolitas love make-believe Rococo fashion, so their slumber party should have been similarly ornate. Lady fingers, petits fours, creme brulee, and sparkling wine. Hell, with Doctor Who about a romantic lost prince who has mastery over time and space, the slumber party should have been set up under the conceit it's a dinner party for The Doctor thrown by Madame de Pompadour. Instead, my girlfriend was serving cheese balls? Sigh.

I couldn't force my will upon the menu or agenda, though, as I was away on business during the party. In fact, that's why my girlfriend hosted the thing. With me away, she decided to throw an event with friends, and for some bonkers-cuckoo-daffy-screwball-insane reason, she decided on a Doctor Who Lolita slumber party. I do love her ever so much.

And, so, while I was away from her for work, she was determined to drive me mad by staging a pajama party with her similarly bonkers-cuckoo-daffy-screwball-insane friends.

Yet, on the eve of this party, time and space apparently broke my way, for my trip was cut short, and I came home just after her slumber party began. I called her as I got into Queens. No answer. I called her again as I was a block away. No answer. I called her a third time outside my building. I knocked four times on our apartment door. No answer.

Opening the door, I saw six Lolitas staring, breathless and mouths ajar, at "The Doctor Dances", all wrapped up, wishing, wanting to be the woman whisked away by the impossible man. They made not a move nor a sound as I shut the door, put my bags down, and took off my coat. I hid in the bedroom until morning.

giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

I Have Discovered A New Species Of Man

I live in New York. I work in Connecticut. This requires me waking at 5:30 AM and catching a train at 6:30, getting into the office at 8:30. I've been doing this for three years now, and while I can couch it one way or another, at the end of the (long) day, it's not fun. For three years, I've risen before the sun and hobbled my way into Grand Central. And only now, after all this time, have I come to the realization of an amazing discovery. I have discovered a new species of man.

See, when I get into Grand Central at 6:30, there are already men and women flowing out of trains from Connecticut into NYC. No big deal. Right? Wrong. I overlooked this for the longest time, but I want you to start thinking about this. If I'm getting up at 5:30, getting ready to leave at 6:30, and these people are already marching into Manhattan, when are they leaving their homes? For them to be in NYC at 6:30, they'd have to have left at 5:30 at the latest, meaning they regularly rise from their beds before 5:00 AM every single day.

When I started thinking this through, my first question was "What job requires these people to be in New York at 6:30 AM?" and I don't have an answer. There are hundreds of people filling Grand Central in the stark, black hours of the morning, and I can't fathom what the fuck they're doing there. They all associated with law firms, brokerages, or other businesses that operate on Moscow time? Can't be. I see men and women in pressed suits, rumpled suits, slutty suits, and jeans. They're clearly all going to different places. And they're doing it all far too early.

So, if it's not a job that's getting them into NYC this early, what could it be? Affairs? All night binge drinking? Both plausible, but I see the same faces day after day. If you're sneaking out to your mistress in Connecticut every night and then slipping back into your wife's bed in Manhattan before she wakes on a daily basis, as promising as Fairfield County tail may be, I can hardly imagine this model is sustainable in the long term. Again, I see the same faces again and again and again. As for binges in Stamford's world-famous all-night ultra bars, there's not enough vomit in Grand Central for this to be in serious contention. Also, I believe Stamford's bar scene shuts down at 11 PM.

Let's now introduce a second piece of evidence. I leave work at 5 PM, get on a train at 5:30 PM, and get back home at 7:30 PM. It, like the morning commute, sucks. I aim to avoid staying in the office late. When I do, I'm typically catching a train at 8 or 9 PM and not getting home until close to midnight. The first time I did this, I presumed the train would be a ghost town. Not so. The late trains are full. Full with the same kinds of people I see so very early in Grand Central. And, when I get into Grand Central, waiting to get on the even later train back to Connecticut are even more of the faces I spy in the morning.

Am I to believe there are people whose jobs require they start their work day at 6 AM and not stop until midnight? Am I to believe there are people who would say yes to this five days a week? Granted, the right application of money in high enough doses can make people do some pretty self-destructive things, but as seductive as that paycheck may be, like with nightly visits to a Connecticut mistress, it has to have an expiration date; however, the men and women I see in Grand Central at these ghastly hours are both young and old and have been doing it for years.

Neither age nor dress unifies these nocturnal commuters. No, the only thing they share is that the travel takes place either before sunrise or after sunset. And this has led me to my conclusion. I have discovered a new species of man. With no apex predators or other extreme conditions to foster further human evolution, our genes -- like us -- have grown lazy and are now starting to adapt to cubicle life. I strongly believe there is now an offshoot of the human race that has adjusted only to survive in the glow of fluorescent lights. I also believe this subset of humanity can derive all necessary nutrients from instant coffee and Cheetos snack packs. Preposterous? Not if you factor in both the Cheetos and the actual snack pack as sustenance.

I can't give an educated guess as to this new race's size or geographic range, but I'm presuming there's a breeding population, and while I've only observed them in New York City, I would imagine there are similar clans in other metropolitan areas.

This, my friends, is the dawn of a new age, and we all have the privileged opportunity to watch nature at work. Who knows what other advancements this species's genetic stew is fomenting. Perhaps we shall see opposable toes, compound eyes, or a third nipple.

Wait, wait. Compound eyes? That's just silly. In fact, upon closer inspection, I don't believe I've discovered a new human species at all. No, I've come upon something far more sinister. Look at my evidence again, and I think it's clear that I haven't encountered a new race of man. People of Earth, I have discovered the secret passageways of vampires.

Gather crosses and stakes, and meet me at Grand Central Terminal tomorrow at 6 AM.

giantrobotsfightinggod.com
Urahara

What Do I Name My Micro-Bakery?

I've long wanted to be many things beyond my lot in life. If I could transcend my job, girlfriend's whims, social entanglements, and Netflix addiction, there are all kinds of things I'd like to be. A successful novelist, a zoo keeper, an art house movie theater owner, a vampire, a bookstore owner, an astronaut, Mayor of New York City, a cyborg, an unsuccessful novelist, a vampire hunter, a restaurant owner, a post office worker, President of The United States, a genetic engineer, a baker, a vampire novelist... The list goes on and on, and while so much of it is beyond my mortal reach, there's one item I've always felt to be obtainable. I want to be a baker.

I love cookies, cakes, muffins, biscuits, and bread, and I could very easily see myself adopt the life of an alchemist of flour and yeast. Early to bed, early to rise, and through the measured application of time, heat, and the proper potions, I could create new -- delicious -- life. And I've always believed the first step in this process was procuring a bread maker. While I'm sure real bakers would frown upon using a robot in place of a wood-burning oven and their own two hands, for an amateur dabbling with a dream, it's the training wheels I'd need before taking the plunge.

And bread makers aren't impossibly expensive. In fact, many a time, I've gone to Macy's or Williams-Sonoma and picked one up. The problem's been that I've never made it to the register. See, the girlfriend has an issue with me owning a bread maker. She claims I'd never use it, tells me it would just take up space, and believes it's not a worthwhile investment. Countering her points, I've repeatedly argued our rice cooker is used daily, a bread maker would save us money in the long run, and it's a teeny, tiny step toward me fulfilling a dream. She's refused to budge.

Until this week, when a fantastic friend of mine secretly purchased a bread maker for me. The bread maker now sits at home, just yearning for its inaugural use. And while I haven't opened the box yet, my mind's already moved on to the greater journey. Before I can start cooking, I need to have my plan in place. I need to name my bakery.

Sure, it'll be slow at first, but with a website and a bread maker, I can go into business as a new age shaman of loafs of feel good. Who needs a storefront when you can sell directly through the town square of the World Wide Web? And who needs to apply for a business license when your domain is hosted in international waters?

So, I've started thinking about what to call my new operation. First up, it's a "micro-bakery". I don't know if this is a real term, but applying the same principles as a "micro-brewery", a micro-bakery is exactly what I aim to create. Next up, I want to use the words "artisanal", "nutrient-dense," "locally-sourced," "organic," and "nouveau" heavily in my promotion. Third, I want to make a line of dessert breads. I want my nouveau-artisanal micro-bakery to produce nutrient-dense dessert breads from 100% locally-sourced organic ingredients. Like our flagship Snickers Bread, which'll feature chunks of Snickers bars that I buy from my local bodega. (We'll round out the line with Kit-Kat Bread, Frosted Flakes Bread, and Oreo Cookie Bread.) Oh, I want to use the word "experimental" as well. An "experimental nouveau-artisanal micro-bakery." Yeah, that'll give me license to produce a few flops. The outfit will be dedicated to exploring new flavors and celebrating new interpretations of classic flavors -- like a corn bread with full kernels of corn inside. Genius, I know.

People will be willing to pay $50 a loaf for this kinda stuff, right? (Plus shipping.)

So, as far as I can see, my plan's sound, and there's just one stumbling block, the hiccup I've already mentioned that's kept me from launching full production. The name. I don't know what to call the business. It's gotta be clever, cute, unassuming, endearing, instantly memorable, universally appealing, and totally unique. It's gotta look good as a URL, too. And I'm a little bit at a loss here. What do I call my micro-bakery?

Here's what I'm tossing around so far...

Ben and Jerry's
Skillman Street
Sunnyside Gardens
Fairfield County Radio Club
Fairfield Country Baking Club
River's Song
Iroquois
Peapod
Moxie
Puppy Dog Tails
Silvercup Bakery

And that's it. Wait, really? That's it? Huh, yeah, that's it. Kinda lame. So, I need your help. I'm all set to take the baking world by storm, but before I can give birth to the best bitchin' bread you can imagine, I need to know what to name my little bakery. Think it over and let me know. If I like your idea, there's a free loaf of Snickers Bread in it for ya. (Plus shipping.)

giantrobotsfightinggod.com